Analytical summary - Health information, research, evidence and knowledge
In the Gambia, the emergence and growth of information societies, together with the role of information and communications technologies, has led not only to rapid universal access and utilization of health information but also to enhanced effective monitoring of trends in health status of communities, especially towards achieving the health-related Millennium Development Goals by 2015, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment, and Vision 2020.
Generation of evidence and knowledge through research, including sharing and exchanging health information with many stakeholders across geographical boundaries through multiple channels including the Internet, libraries, seminars, conferences and workshops, and other information centres, is critical for making informed decisions at all levels.
The Government of the Gambia has created an enabling environment with the development of appropriate policies and strategies, supported by well-elaborated legal, institutional and regulatory frameworks, that optimize the uptake of information and communications technologies as well as health-related information and services geared towards reducing poverty, enhancing growth and promoting sustained development. Against this backdrop, sector programmes have been established with a series of projects implemented, including:
- needs assessments
- policy planning capacity enhancements
- phased implementation of e-government strategies with that of e-health.
Strengths include establishing:
- a national information and communications infrastructure;
- a national health management information system;
- an expanded access to both local area networks or wide area network at central and regional levels, including provision of the Internet to most health facilities with improved data management.
However, despite the availability and introduction of routine data collection and management tools into the health management information system, specific research data collection and management guidelines have not been developed. Lack of such tools poses a challenge not only for the management of research data but also for the systematic collection, management, effective utilization and dissemination of information generated from research. In addition to these challenges and weaknesses, little or no research capacity or structures exist in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and this is further compounded by limited access to research findings.
The link between policy-making and decision-making processes and research remains weak, largely owing to lack of a common national platform for the setting of health research agenda. Mechanisms for determining priorities in the area of health research are also not in place. Access to existing global health information has been facilitated through:
- roll-out of the e-government strategy;
- implementation of information and communications technology applications;
- extension of Internet connectivity through government services, web presence and provision of services online.
Availability and use of health libraries and information centres are limited given resources constraints within the country.