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Uganda to benefit from $100million public health initiative

By Carol Natukunda

Added 28th September 2019 10:12 AM

Uganda’s health minister Dr. Jane Aceng, was quoted in the statement as saying that the development would make a difference.

Uganda to benefit from $100million public health initiative

Health Minister Dr. Jane Aceng. Photo/File

Uganda’s health minister Dr. Jane Aceng, was quoted in the statement as saying that the development would make a difference.


Uganda and India will be the first countries to benefit from the $100m Precision Public Health initiative that was announced on Wednesday by global health partners.

The initiative that aims to prevent six million deaths by 2030, will first focus on improving maternal and child health in Uganda and India, and eventually expand to eight additional countries.

It is supported by the Rockefeller Foundation in collaboration with other partners including UNICEF; the World Health Organization; The Global Fund; the Global Financing Facility supported by The World Bank Group; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

A statement released by the Rockefeller Foundation said the initiative would provide community health systems and frontline health workers with the latest data science innovations. These innovations are tools that process data to give users actionable insights; and are built within everyday products like apps on smartphones and web-based tools.

Experts say the new enterprise will leverage technologies that are transforming health in wealthy countries to dramatically reduce preventable maternal and child deaths.

"We have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage advances in data science and technology that have enriched the lives of society's most privileged, and transform health for those left behind around the world," said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, the President of The Rockefeller Foundation. "We can close the health inequity gap by driving innovation and investment to save millions of lives."

Uganda's health minister  Dr. Jane Aceng, was quoted in the statement as saying that the development would make a difference.

"Data can help us see who is in greatest need, and hold ourselves accountable for meeting those needs. We are looking forward to working with global partners, engaging technology companies, and translating innovations into lives saved and improved," said Aceng.

The press statement added that the initiative will build upon a number of similar efforts that have already shown encouraging results in applying data science to deploy life-saving health tools.

These include developing real-time risk maps to direct frontline health workers to areas of greatest need and analyzing non-health data like climate patterns or social media trends to predict and better address health emergencies weeks in advance.

"Data is a powerful tool that can help us make life-saving decisions and prevent epidemics before they happen," said Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF. "Timely, reliable, and disaggregated data, underpinned by a commitment to universal health coverage, can ensure that vulnerable women, children, and young people get the care they need at the right place and the right time."

The general picture

In an email interview with New Vision, Manisha Bhinge, the Associate Director of the Health program at the Rockefeller Foundation, explained that Uganda and India were identified basing on a number of factors including the interest and invitation of the countries.

Uganda's maternal mortality ratio, though reducing, is still very high at 336/100,000 live births, due to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes such as excessive bleeding and infections. Each year,  approximately 200,000 children under the age of five in Uganda die from illnesses such as diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria, which are preventable or treatable, and could be eliminated through the administration of timely vaccines.

Globally, about 800 women die every day of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth; 20 per cent of these women are from India. The country also registered over 800,000 child deaths in 2017.

he World Health  Organization  (WHO)  estimates

that, of 536,000 maternal deaths occurring globally

each year, 136,000 take place in India

The World Health  Organization  (WHO)  estimates

that, of 536,000 maternal deaths occurring globally

each year, 136,000 take place in India.

Bhinge expressed optimism that the innovations would have a positive impact on maternal and child health,

"We use data science every day. For example, when Google maps give us the route that gets us to our destination the fastest, or when Netflix suggests movies for you based on what you've watched in the past few months. While these are sophisticated applications, the same ideas can be used to empower community health workers and systems," said Bhinge. 

 "A frontline worker need not have to remember who amongst her hundreds of patients she needs to follow up with, or whether there are enough medicines in stock. Data science tools that are embedded in her phone can give her a daily list of priority patients based on their histories; while those working within health information systems are prompted to replenish medicines -- thereby making the health worker and the system more effective and productive," added Bhinge.

By empowering health workers with timely, relevant and easily actionable information, Bhinge said this would enable health workers to provide the services and save lives.

"Data can save lives.  We believe that by enabling frontline health workers with simple, inexpensive data analytics tools, we can together save at least 6 million lives between now and 2030, in 10 countries starting with India and Uganda."

The Rockefeller Foundation is science-driven philanthropy that seeks to inspire promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations.

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