The 2008 Public Health Informatics Conference

Pape Gaye, president of IntraHealth International, and Dykki Settle, IntraHealth's Director of Informatics, recently attended the PHI2008 Conference, hosted by the University of Washington in Seattle. The theme was "Envisioning Options for Integrated Public Health Information Systems for Low Resource Settings: Components, Connections, Partners, Strategies."

The conference is led by Global Partners in Public Health Informatics, an alliance of governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, private sector contributors, and individuals that looks for ways to use communication and information technologies to address health challenges in resource-poor settings around the world. The 2008 conference included representatives of more than 50 organizations working in public health. Attendees represented 15 countries.

Pape's presentation brought capacity building to the attention of the conference by highlighting the need to use eHealth systems to expand the reach of health workers. His talk was unique in its focus on capacity building, in that the talks of other presenters generally fit within any one of several issues including the interoperability of information systems, strategies for developing national health systems, or coordinating eHealth initiatives.

The presentation reviewed the challenges and opportunities associated with capacity building and ICT within the HRH field. He detailed the advantages of the Performance Improvement (PI) approach for its impact on health workers in low resource settings, and outlined a model of PI that can be adapted for capacity building in eHealth. Learning for Performance, IntraHealth's HRIS work, and the HRH Global Resource Center were all highlighted during the talk.

Here are the main takeaways from his presentation:

  • People working in ICT for health do not need to reinvent the wheel
  • ICT development and capacity building should be done within the context of overall HRH capacity building, not outside of it
  • There are exciting opportunities in eHealth for building capacity in ICT but also for how ICT can help build the capacity of health workers and better prepare them for their jobs (e.g. decision support systems)

The presentation also addressed the emergence of Generation Y, showing how eHealth initiatives represent an opportunity to expand the reach of people familiar with using technology and fluent with social networking. This part of the talk attracted particular interest from the audience in the Q and A that followed.