UB e-Health Research Unit to foster research and capacity building in Botswana

HELINA 2019

In an effort to positioning itself as a leader in knowledge generation, the University of Botswana in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Botswana Institute for technology Research and Innovation as well as the University of Pennsylvania, has set up an e-Health Research Unit to foster e-Health research and capacity building in Botswana.

This surfaced at the official opening of the ongoing three-day 12th Health Informatics in Africa (HELINA) Conference at the University of Botswana Conference Centre on November 20, 2019.

Welcoming participants, Acting Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, Professor Oathokwa Nkomazana, said the establishment of the e-Health Research Unit was part of the University of Botswana to position itself as a leader in providing and supporting national development strategies.

Professor Nkomazana said therefore the e-Health Research Unit would help the country with knowledge and solutions to its ever evolving needs and challenges. She added that as a site for training, the unit would further equip graduates with skills required by the industry besides capacity to generate and utilise data.

She added that the HEILNA Conference was timely given Botswana was at a critical stage of transitioning from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy. That was because in the past some decisions, she observed, were premised not so much on evidence but on who had the ear of the policy makers and ability to put their case across.

Conversely, Professor Nkomazana said if the HELINA conference were to entrench the culture of generating and using evidence to inform strategic decision making, then Africa would go a long way in policy formulation and implementation.

The aim of the conference is to build capacity on robust digital health eco-system in Africa and also to try and device strategies on how digital health could be institutionalised and incorporated into the health care sector in Botswana and Africa.

Officiating at the event, Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr Lemogang Kwape, outlined his ministry mandate and reiterated its commitment to the improvement of health care 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 need for real time data and its use were paramount if his ministry were to realise 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 utilised its healthcare would shape the future of its healthcare management and patient care.

As such, Dr Kwape said given the steady development of the country’s e-Health environment, the Ministry of Health and Wellness recently finalised 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 last year which urges member states to assess their use of digital technologies for health to identify areas of improvement to promote universal health coverage.

The conference is attended participants in different fields from across Africa and beyond to discuss issues related to health informatics and how digital health can be institutionalised and incorporated into the health system.