Analytical summary - Health information, research, evidence and knowledge
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In the last decade, understanding has been reached that creating an adequate knowledge, information and research infrastructure, and the means for managing it, is a powerful means of addressing the challenges of health status in the WHO African Region.
High-level summits have been held to this end, recognizing that health research in Africa requires an African perspective if present knowledge gaps are to be appropriately filled. Stronger commitment has been given to supporting health research, accelerating efforts to develop and implement appropriate research policies at national and regional levels, and fostering leadership and collaboration to these ends (see figure).
Equally, the need to channel research outputs into comprehensive, well-managed health information systems for wide dissemination to different audiences has been recognized. Some countries are making progress in this area, although most have still to put the fundamental organizational and coordination mechanisms in place.
These efforts culminated in the adoption in 2008 of the Algiers Declaration on research for health in the WHO African Region by all 46 countries. The Declaration calls on countries to:
- take specific steps to improve coordination and leadership of health information systems
- put in place clear policies, strategies, laws and other necessary mechanisms to improve and harmonize data
- increase the flow of information within and between countries, utilizing up-to-date information and communication technology.
With the current trend towards more funding throughout the health sector, the climate is right to address information needs that far outweigh data availability or country capacity. This trend, together with increasing information and communication technology use, provides an opportunity to strengthen data collection, processing, transfer, dissemination and use, as well as opportunities to enhance the use of evidence for policy-making and decision-making. Both electronic health (eHealth) and mobile health (mHealth) are proving to be useful tools in African countries, given the current shortage of fixed infrastructure.
The present climate provides a strong basis for many countries to accelerate measures to implement the provisions of the Algiers Declaration. Information and communication technology can serve as a valuable platform to enable health system development and transformation in the service of population health, equity and security in the Region.