New commitment to health data will improve health policy in the Americas

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Washington D.C, 2 October 2019 (PAHO/WHO) – A new plan of action to improve information systems for health (IS4H) was approved today by ministers of health of the Americas. The plan will ensure better collection and management of data to inform decision-making, policy development, and monitoring and forecasting for the Region’s health situation.

The Plan of Action for Strengthening Information Systems for Health 2019-2023, adopted by the 57th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), calls on countries to reassess their approaches and priorities for data management and digital health, and highlights the need to disaggregate data by income, sex, age, race, ethnic origin, disability, geographical context and other relevant factors.

“In policy making and health system management, open, integrated access to birth and death records, electronic health records, and epidemiological data is still not available in many countries,” said Marcelo D’Agostino, Senior Advisor for Information Systems for Health. “Equitable, evidence-based health care will only be a possibility if this data is made systematically available.”

The countries of the Americas face a multitude of challenges when it comes to strengthening information systems for health, adoption of new technologies and producing the reliable, secure and timely data needed to develop health policy that responds to specific needs. However, if countries are to effectively implement the measures needed to achieve goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Agenda, access to reliable and open data at the right time, in the right place, in the right format, and at a low cost will be key.

The Plan of Action, designed mainly for national and subnational health sector institutions, aims to support countries in strengthening and upgrading their health systems. It proposes four strategic lines of action:

  • Information system management and governance – strengthening the use of information technology, data production, software development and legislation updates to improve information for decision-making and policy-making.
  • Data management and information technologies – including the promotion of interconnected information systems that allow data to be collected and shared from multiple sources.
  • Information and knowledge management – involving the scientific community, academia, and civil society, among others, in the real-time collection and capture of data and information.
  • Innovation, integration, and convergence – developing a network of experts to stay abreast of innovative models of data generation and collection.

Plan of Action for Strengthening Information Systems for Health 2019-2023 responds to the urgent need to generate consistent, accurate and disaggregated data to inform the development of measures to ensure the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and the Sustainable Health Agenda for the Americas.

It also aims to resolve ongoing issues with information production in the Region of the Americas including rapid technological development such as cloud computing, big data analysis and artificial intelligence, and the need to implement digitization projects as part of national strategic health plans.

Collaboration and coordination between countries, institutions and development partners will be key to ensuring success.