London: Logica has been selected by the European Space Agency (ESA), to lead a multinational consortium in a study on electronic health (eHealth) delivery, enabled by satellite, in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Sub-Saharan Africa presents a significant challenge for medical professionals. The region has around 11 percent of the world's population, however has 25 percent of the global disease burden (in human and financial costs), but less than 1 percent of global health expenditure. Delivery is also a challenge with just 3 percent 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.
In theory, this is where the European Space Agency (ESA) comes in. ICT, and in particular satellite communications, could enable the timely delivery of care, training and educational content, perform epidemic surveillance and support health system administration over the vast distances involved in this 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. 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 a substantial amount of 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.
The study is the first step in a 36 million euro programme. There will be 3 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.
Commenting on the initiative ESA said, "The lack of infrastructure is limiting the access to basic healthcare services to more than 80 % of the population in sub-Saharan Africa. We really believe that careful use of space technologies will be a cost-effective way to expand healthcare coverage to rural areas where most of the people live in sub-Saharan Africa. We selected Logica because it has created a strong consortium with a strong emphasis on African stakeholders and close ties to the local health community ensuring that this programme delivers the maximum possible benefit for sub Saharan regions."
Stuart Martin, head of space and satcoms at Logica 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."