In 1998, the World Health Organization African Regional Office (WHO/AFRO) and its 46 Member States, adopted the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR), as a strategy for developing and implementing comprehensive public health surveillance and response systems in African countries.
The IDSR framework defines the workforce and programmatic needs of public health surveillance and response at each level, and provides a roadmap for achieving compliance with the WHO International Health Regulations (IHR ). Most surveillance systems in Africa are paper based however the ever-increasing power and accessibility to technology enables widespread implementation of electronic tools used for public health, especially in lower resource settings. This vastly improves capacity and reduce burden for public health surveillance, leading to faster response.
What is OHSI?
The African One Health e-Surveillance Initiative (OHSI) is a pilot project to help African countries develop strategic plans for implementing sustainable electronic surveillance (e-Surveillance) within the IDSR framework while embracing the One Health concept and promoting use of public health informatics and Information Technology (IT) standards for interoperability. This project will also result in a toolkit that can be used by countries to conduct an e-Surveillance assessment. The project is implemented by the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) in partnership with Public Health Practice PHP (LLC) and other stakeholders.
The OHSI will provide countries with a tailored roadmap to develop and enhance their public health infrastructure and workforce through the integration of electronic tools. This strategic plan, through the promotion of informatics and IT standards, will enable countries to coordinate the development of electronic tools to form a robust e-Surveillance network that is capable of adapting to emerging needs. The objective of the OHSI is to develop and recommend country-specific strategic plans for implementing One Health e-Surveillance that abides by the IDSR and IHR (2005) strategies and guidelines by using regional and national country level workgroups (CLWGs).
The CLWGs will be comprised of public health, medical, veterinary, laboratory, and IT experts who will develop strategic plans for e-Surveillance tailored to their country’s needs, resources, and infrastructure. These strategic plans will be built upon global best practices, including IT standards which allow for integration of electronic tools and sustainability of IT solutions, and employ a health systems capacity building conceptual framework endorsed by the World Health Organization for the IHR (2005).
The strategic plan for e-Surveillance is intended to augment and complement existing national strategic plans and policies and to establish multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary coordination among one health and e-Surveillance initiatives within the country.
As part of the process, country assessments for e-Surveillance will be conducted by CLWGs for their respective countries to develop a baseline for the strategic plan. Topical trainings on public health informatics and One Health will be provided to pilot participants to provide the needed technical background and develop domestic expertise in these areas.
The project will also provide evidence-based information to the World Health Organization’s African Regional Office (WHO-AFRO) to address its important mission of establishing e-Surveillance in the region.
This project is supported by funding from the US Defense Threat Reduction Agency and is in collaboration with the WHO-AFRO, US CDC, and Public Health Pratice, LLC.