The 2019 edition of the Pan-African health informatics conference (HELINA) took place in Gaborone, Botswana from 20th November 2019 to 22nd November 2019. The HELINA 2019 conference was hosted by the University of Botswana (UB) through the eHealth Research Unit in collaboration with the Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoHW), Ministry of Transport and Communication (MTC), Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI), Botswana Health Information Management Association (BoHIMA), and Kenya Health Informatics Association (KeHIA) . The main focus of the conference was how digital health can be harnessed to “…achieve Universal Health Coverage1” in Africa. 175 delegates attended the HELINA 2019 who represented 18 countries worldwide and various professions with a keen interest in health Informatics.
HELINA 2019 conference also featured 3 parallel pre-conference workshops on the 19th November, 2019, namely, 1) Drone Technologies for public health and related fields, 2) Data Science in Healthcare and 3) Scientific Writing workshop.
UB and Botswana International University of Science and Technology in conjunction with the Botswana Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) co-hosted the Drone Technologies pre-conference workshop which was aimed at exploring drone technologies for public health and related fields with the goal of developing a draft policy on the use of drones for healthcare product/service delivery. The one day drone workshop was conducted on the 19th November, 2019 and was hugely successful with delegates spoilt for choice on content and demonstrations of varied drone technologies.
One of the key pre-conference activities was on Data Science officiated by CDC Atlanta. Data and information are the lifeblood of public health. Rapid advances in information and communications technology are creating profound changes in how the public health workforce collects, manages, shares, analyzes and uses data and information, at the molecular, organ, patient and population levels, to inform decision-making and improve health outcomes. Designing, implementing and reproducing these value-generating processes require inter-disciplinary knowledge and skills, and collaborative problem solving. During this workshop, attendees explored the development and use of digital case studies in public health using Jupyter Notebook, an open source data science platform for working with reproducible, shareable computational narratives about solving problems in public health informatics. Participants gained practical knowledge in using the Jupyter Notebook ecosystem of tools and increased capabilities to utilize data using descriptive, diagnostic, predictive, and prescriptive analytics and visualization methods to inform program implementation and improvement, identifying gaps and/or needs, and support decision making.1
The third pre-conference workshop was on Academic Scientific Writing by the HELINA Education Working Group (EWG), titled “Academic writing: from concept to publishing”. This one day FREE workshop was held at the University of Botswana before the main HELINA 2019 conference. It was hosted by two Fellow International Academy of Health Sciences Informatics. Professors Frank Verbeke, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium and Graham Wright, Rhodes University, South Africa. They are both active researchers with Clinical, Management and Health information systems backgrounds. Delegates were involved in an intense exercise but enjoyable. The aim was to produce a journal paper to which all contributors will be named as authors.
Overall the HELINA conference got positive feedback from participants, indicating that it was valuable, informative and well organized.
The HELINA 2019 theme was “From evidence to Practice: The Implementation of Digital Health Interventions in Africa for Achievement of Universal Health Coverage”.
Hon. Dr. Lwmogang Kwape, Minister of Health – Botswana, officially opens the HELINA 2019 conference, Gaborone, Botswana.
Officiating at the event, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape, outlined his ministry mandate and reiterated its commitment to the improvement of healthcare in the country. Dr Kwape therefore underscored research, data access and analytics for decision making as critical to building a sustainable health system for universal health coverage. He said there is need for real time data and its use were paramount if his ministry were to realize its mission of delivering quality health services, policy formulation, standards and guidelines of health services. Dr Kwape added that the conference was timely in that it was coming at a time Botswana was gearing up to embrace the fourth industrial revolution. He said that was because the choices made today about how the country managed, controlled and utilized its healthcare would shape the future of its healthcare management and patient care. As such, Dr Kwape said given the steady development of Botswana’s e-Health environment, the Ministry of Health and Wellness recently finalized an e-Health Strategy to ensure that e-health contributed to the strengthening of the health system and health outcome of Batswana. He observed that the strategy was aligned with the 71st World Health Assembly Resolution on Digital Health adopted in May 2018 which urges member states to assess their use of digital technologies for health to identify areas of improvement to promote universal health coverage (UHC).
Hon. Dr. Kwape graces the 2019 HELINA conference. With him (L to R): Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ruth Maphorisa, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor, Academic Affairs- Ubiversity of Botswana, Prof. O. Nkomazana, Chief Executive Officer – BIRI, Prof. S. Masupe, Dean of Science, University of Botswana, Prof. Atlhopheng.
Pictures of the conference can be found in the conference photos folder available through the following links:
HELINA 2019 Group Picture
Mr. Kagiso Ndlovu, Dr. Aubrey Mokotedi
Dr. Gontlafetse Mosweunyane
Tebo Leburu, Star Chibemba
Mr. Steven Wanyee
Ms Susan Gathu