Kenya’s health sector is currently undergoing upheavals occasioned by the debilitating doctor’s strike. Besides personal emoluments and deployment of specialists in county hospitals, the doctors are also agitating for well-equipped health facilities with adequate supplies of medicines and other consumables. If these prayers are answered, doctors believe sustainable sanity could prevail in the country’s health sector.
But one critical aspect that is often overlooked in the health sector reforms concerns collation, curation and real-time sharing of health related data. Many times, it is a case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is holding; making knowledge driven decision making elusive.
To address this shortcoming an ambitious multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research project has been launched. The project that is funded by the United States of America through USAID aims to help the Ministry of Health (MoH) achieve single, strengthened, and unified, Integrated Health Information System (H.I.S) at national and county levels.
Participating institutions are Palladium Group, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and PATH International.
Dubbed Health Informatics Governance and Data Analytics (HIGDA), the project, will see establishment of a digital health applied research centre at JKUAT. From the facility the University is expected to hone ICT and Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) based data collection, processing and sharing innovations.
With local institutional and human capacity building being core concerns of the initiative, HIGDA will also support implementation of interoperable health management systems and mainstreaming of health informatics and data analytics in health related courses.
Speaking during a stakeholders meeting Wednesday February 22, Principal College of Health Sciences, Prof. Haroun Mengech said JKUAT had put together top multidisciplinary brains to spearhead the initiative.
He added that data management and sharing was a linchpin of effective healthcare delivery as it facilitates decision making and prioritization.
Palladium Group Chief of Party Rose Nzyoka said by bringing state and non-state actors together, the initiative is primed to galvanize international support for local capacity building.
“Ours is to identify the existing gaps in information management in Kenya’s health sector. We are now glad to work with JKUAT to provide the targeted solutions,” Nzyoka said.
The HIGDA initiative which is to run for five years will eventually see JKUAT a home of regional reference laboratory and sand-box where computer and mobile applications can be developed, tested and certified. It also creates a framework for future collaboration among implementing partners.