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Promoting and strengthening e-health in East and Southern Africa

Duration: 
2008 - 2011
Many Commonwealth countries are in need of innovative approaches for enhancing the provision of adequate healthcare to citizens. Geographic remoteness in particular, along with high levels of poverty among some of the membership’s most excluded and marginalised populations, is a major challenge for members that lack adequate resourcing and physical infrastructure to facilitate delivery.

E-health offers possibilities for addressing several of these challenges.  Defined as the use of Information Communications Technology, locally and at a distance, to strengthen health systems and address public health priorities, e-health has the potential to increase the efficiency of health systems and to improve access, especially in remote areas, for marginalised or excluded populations, people with disabilities and the elderly. It can be used to improve service quality, and can also reduce the cost of health care delivery by reducing redundancy and duplication and introducing economies of scale.

Commonwealth response: 

Following a 2008 mandate from health ministers, the Commonwealth Secretariat has been assisting countries to promote the exchange of e-health expertise between Commonwealth countries, and to support regional e-health pilot interventions to serve as regional examples of the potential for e-health to influence overall socio-economic development across communities. As part of this process, an assessment tool to assess the e-health status in Commonwealth countries, and a methodology and templates for e-health policy and strategy, were developed. 

The Secretariat, in collaboration with the East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA-HC), organised the first ministerial high-level dialogue on e-health in 2008, which was hosted by the Seychelles Government.

This ministerial dialogue and a subsequent international e-health workshop held in Kenya in 2009, identified the need for e-health policies and strategies, for more information on national and regional e-health initiatives, as well as the need for adequate skills in preparing e-health proposals.

Result: 

At the regional level, e-health policy and strategy training has been delivered in both Eastern and Southern Africa resulting in the drafting, reviewing and updating of e-health policies and strategies, and the development of work plans and engagement with relevant stakeholders, decision and policy-makers.

At the national level, this resulted in the successful sourcing of additional resources from other partners towards the development of an e-health strategy by the Kenya Government, which has since officially launched their own strategy. The critical role played by the Secretariat in the process has been acknowledged. Kenya has since worked with the Secretariat to share their experience in the Southern African region and to assist Southern African Development Community country teams to draft or finalise their e-health policies and strategies.

The Commonwealth Secretariat conducted subsequent Dialogues in West Africa and South Asia.  As part of this process, an assessment tool to assess the e-health status in Commonwealth countries, and a methodology and templates for e-health policy and strategy were developed. 

Partners: 

East, Central and Southern African Health Community
Government of Seychelles
Government of Kenya