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AMIA 2009 – global health informatics November 16, 2009

Posted by peterjmurray in AMIA, conference, USA.
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“Experiences and challenges of global health informatics” – a panel on global ehealth initiatives, presenting the experiences of practitioners from various parts of the world. The first presenter, Neil Advani, explored the distinction between global and international in terms of health. He says that ‘international health’ is based in tropical medicine, as a distinct speciality, and based in a foreign aid paradigm, while global health is based in global health threats that potentially affect all countries, and a paradigm of elf-sustainable development. International health sees innovation only in ‘developed nations’, while global health sees innovation required in, and occurring in the ‘global south’. International health is based in adapting high-tech solutions to resource constrained areas, while global health sees innovation and exchange occurring in both directions between developed and developing areas.

The first presenter is Muzna Mirza (on behalf of Scott McNab), on Saudi Arabian National Guard Electronic Disease Surveillance System. The system vision is around an integrated surveillance and information system designed for appropriate actions to prevent and control illness.

The second presentation is from Andrew Kanter, on “The Millennium Global Village Network”, a network of 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. MVP (Millennium Villages Project) is a partnership between UNDP, national governments, and Earth Institue at Columbia University; it is integrated project, not just focusing on health, but on other aspects of everyday life that influence health and disease.  The project covers about 500,000 people, at a cost of around $120 per person per year. The project is based around primary care clinic registers The project covers about 500,000 people, at a cost of around $120 per person per year. The project is based around primary care clinic registers, but wants to move to comparable and timely data, electronically stored. The project uses OpenMRS as a core to collect structured data from different facilities; information is aggregated, used locally, sent from district information systems to meet the needs of regional and national health ministry levels. The project wants to also find what works and what doesn’t work in different areas, and common themes.

The system needs to be population based, not just based in health clinics. A system built on Open Rosa uses a cellphone based data collection system to then send data to Open MRS and generate reports based in local communities. Challenges include human capacity, reliable electricity (often solar power based), clinician engagement, reliable connectivity (via 3G networks) and government policies. Conclusions include that open robust systems are an important part of these developments.

T Kass-Hout talked about disease surveillance through novel tools in InSTEDD, and the final speaker was Charles Safran, talking about diabetes management in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. About 30% of Emirati seem to develop diabetes later in life (versus a smaller percentage of around 7% in USA). Charles discussed population management of diabetes, and doing so from a distance. He discussed some of the cultural issues around people admitting to having diabetes, and aspects of care. Charles discussed some research into how IT available today can provide better healthcare in Dubai; the results found that people already made everyday use of IT (especially cellphones), but often are not trained in utilising them to their full potential. They found that ‘culture trumps everything’ – Charles suggests a need for ‘cultural informatics’ and a supporting research framework for comparative cultural explorations.

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