Health Information and Knowledge Management

About the Programme
The role of the Health Information and Knowledge Management unit is to monitor the health situation and trends in the African Region and report on internationally agreed goals. It also support member states in strengthening health information (HIS) and civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems, increasing analytical capacity for policy and decision making, fostering the development of eHealth strategies and services, enhancing the research capacity in the Region from its current level of 1.3% of global research output  and supporting knowledge sharing and translation in the African Region. HIK comprises five programmes.

Health information systems, CRVS (HIC)
Routine health information and CRVS are twin priorities for improving the availability of reliable data – not least to monitor progress towards targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Health information systems represent a key component of national health systems. Ministries of Health and their partners have recognized the importance of timely statistics and evidence in shaping policy and decision making in the Region.
WHO provides technical support and tools to help countries undertake civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) assessments, and to improve mortality statistics and data availability.

Health trends observatories (HTO)
In 2011, WHO established the African Health Observatory (AHO) to facilitate collaboration and partnership in accessing and using information to strengthen national health systems and improve health outcomes. In 2012, the AHO was mandated to support countries to establish their own national health observatories (NHOs). It has developed guidelines and fully functional prototype NHOs, and is also actively supporting countries that have started developing their NHO.

eHealth and mHealth
eHealth is the cost-effective and secure use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in health and health-related fields. EHealth can encompass a range of services and systems, including health and medical informatics, tele-health, e-learning and m-health. It can contribute to health systems strengthening by making available fast, reliable and updated health information. EHealth also contribute to inform and sensitize communities, and improve diseases prevention. The telemedicine component enables the extension of diagnosis and treatment in rural area, and contributes to the training of professionals.

The new technological environment in the African Region constitutes an opportunity to develop digital health in order to contribute to strengthening health systems, particularly in the following fields:

  • Health service delivery, especially to marginalised populations
  • Health and medical information,
  • Information and  education  of communities  on health issues
  • Supplying  quality and proximity care services
  • Improving epidemiological surveillance
  • Human resources capacity building
  • Management of health resources

Research and knowledge management (RKM)
Research for health provides evidence to guide in the design and implementation of health policies and practice. Every country should have the capacity to produce and utilize research to meet the health needs of the population by having functional national health research systems (NHRS). WHO supports Member States to establish a functional NHRS that provides for effective governance, builds and sustains capacity, creates or strengthens sustainable financing mechanisms, tracks production and promotes utilization of research for health.

Knowledge management (KM) is a set of principles, tools and practices that enable people to create knowledge, and to share and apply it to increase efficiency and effectiveness, strengthen health systems and improve health outcomes. As part of its KM responsibilities, RKM supports the operations of the Evidence-Informed Policy Network (EVIPNet), a WHO knowledge translation platform with teams in 12 countries in the African Region that provide rapid response support to national programme managers and policy-makers, conduct policy briefs and hold discussions leading to changes in policy and programmes to ensure that health policies and practices are rooted in the best scientific knowledge.

RKM also has the responsibility for the designation and redesignation of the WHO collaborating centres (WCC) in the African Region. WCCs are institutions such as research institutes, universities or academies designated by the Director-General to carry out activities in support of WHO’s programmes.

Library and publications (LIB)
WHO supports countries and the WHO Regional Office for Africa to improve knowledge sharing and translation through more readily available and high-quality Regional Office publications; the accessibility, storage and sharing of information and evidence; and the improvement of the content, user-friendliness, display and visibility of the Regional Office website and the AHO.

The Library manages the African Index Medicus[1]  – a database for African health literature and information sources – and uploads to WHO’s global Institutional Repository for Information Sharing (IRIS) all of the Regional Office’s publications. The Library has also developed a repository of publications by WHO African Region staff members in peer-reviewed journals on the Regional Office for Africa’s website.
Public health information (retrieved from sources including PubMed[2],  GIFT[3]  and a wide range of other journal alerts) is regularly shared with staff and available from the AHO website.

[1] AIM,
[2] The American National Library of Medicine database.
[3] Global Information Full Text, a platform that provides WHO staff with 24/7 online access to major journals and databases in the medical and biomedical fields.