As part of its global efforts to drive digital health progress through advocacy and thought leadership, collective action, and evaluation of the state of the field, HealthEnabled and members of our network frequently publish perspective pieces. Read a sampling of these articles below:

 

How real numbers can eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV (Devex)

By Patricia Mechael

According to 2014 estimates from UNAIDS, between 3.4 million and 4.3 million women over 15 live with HIV in South Africa, while between 310,000 and 370,000 children in the country are HIV-positive.

In an age when countries can register nearly every mobile phone subscriber — and mobile phones are nearly ubiquitous — it is no longer acceptable, or ethical for that matter, for the public health community to work with HIV rate estimates that are “plus or minus” tens of thousands of people.

Real numbers can enable those who were previously invisible to become visible. By harnessing the power of digital technology to gather and send information, the public health community can use real numbers to more accurately measure incidence and prevalence of disease and provide more effective services to those who need them most. Milestones that have often seemed impossible — such as reaching an AIDS-free generation in countries that have struggled with the virus most — are now becoming possible.

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How can Africa prepare for post-2015 digital health investments? (Devex)

By Richard Gakuba

As development practitioners in global health have reflected back on the Millennium Development Goal era, many have noted significant progress against key goals, including reductions in maternal deaths, child deaths under age 5 and new HIV infections. But one of the greatest accomplishments over the past 15 years is actually more of an idea: the collective appreciation for our need to invest in health systems strengthening.

This focus has been prominent at several recent cornerstone health events, including at the Measurement and Accountability for Health Summit that took place in Washington, D.C., in June 2015, where countries, global health leaders, civil society and development partners endorsed a roadmap to help countries track progress as they build resilient and sustainable systems for health while working toward the Sustainable Development Goals.

The road map’s core themes emphasize the importance of health monitoring and accountability lessons learned from the MDG era; good information systems and accountability mechanisms to implement the post-2015 agenda; and harnessing the “data revolution” to scale up desirable systems.

To anyone who has worked in global health for at least 15 years, it’s amazing to see the global health agenda putting digital health at center stage as one of the key pillars in health system strengthening.

Agendas are not just words; they drive investments by both governments and development partners. But if developing African countries are to truly harness future digital health investments to strengthen health systems, they will need to ensure that the right “infostructure” and institutional capacity are in place first.

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Unlocking the potential of digital health (Devex)

By Patricia Mechael and Misha Kay

In the past five years, we have witnessed remarkable advancements in technological innovations — including mobile phones, tablets, remote patient monitoring devices, and sensors — that drive so-called “digital health” around the world. Increasingly, these innovations are also equipped with GPS and metrics that generate promising evidence of their cost-saving and, more importantly, life-saving capabilities.

The technologies alone are not enough, however. To truly harness the power of these trends, we need a Global Digital Health Index that will drive the expanded use of life-saving digital health technologies by making health systems more transparent, resilient, responsive, and better able to meet the needs of the population.

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