ESA launches project to improve healthcare in Africa with satellite technology

ESA launches project to improve healthcare in Africa with satellite technology

British Journal of Healthcare Computing

[Paris, FR/ Implementations] - The European Space Agenc y (ESA) has set up an international consortium to pave the way for the use of satellite systems to help overcome the challenges to healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa. The region has around 11% of the world?s population, but has 25% of the global disease burden (in human and financial costs), but less than 1% of global health expenditure. Delivery is also a challenge, with just 3% of the world?s health workers deployed in the region, so doctors and nurses are often a long way from their patients and access is difficult due to poor infrastructure.

Information and communications technology (ICT) and in particular satellite communications can enable the timely delivery of care, training and educational content, perform epidemic surveillance and support health system administration over the vast distances involved in the region.

ESA recently launched the Satellite-Enhanced Telemedicine and eHealth for Sub-Saharan Africa Programme (eHSA). Working in collaboration with the Luxembourg Agency for Development Cooperation (LuxDev) and with the co-funding of the Government of Luxembourg and the European Union - Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund, eHSA?s goal is to develop a satellite-enhanced eHealth and Telemedicine infrastructure to benefit sub-Saharan Africa. It has also recently issued a tender for a study on the interoperability aspects of the Programme.

One of the first objectives of the programme is to conduct a governance study among 48 countries in the region which will make sure that the right procedures, policies, and organisational structures are in place before the eventual move to eHealth delivery. This study will be led by Logica, supported by its consortium partners drawn from public, private and voluntary sectors, including several charities representing the interests of the African nations. The consortium will conduct stakeholder research using case studies, workshops, stakeholder surveys, one-to-one interviews and a dedicated web portal for health communities? engagement and feedback, as it looks for the best possible outcome.

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The study is the first step in a €36 million programme. There will be three further studies taking place in 2012 covering the regulatory aspects, interoperability and sustainability of eHealth, before a second phase. The second phase involves implementing projects around specific themes such as electronic care and learning, epidemic surveillance, and administration. Besides the social benefit it provides, the eHSA is also an important contribution towards several of the United Nations? Millennium Development Goals.

Stuart Martin, head of space and satcoms at Logica, a consortium member, commented: “Due to the accuracy and the universal service satellites can provide, the number of potential applications continues to grow at an exponential rate. But what this particular programme really demonstrates is how they can truly transform people?s lives for the better. In the case of Sub-Saharan Africa, satellites may well prove to be the only cost-effective way to expand the coverage of health services in the region