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Pan African Health Informatics Association (HELINA)
The HEaLth INformatics in Africa (HELINA) 2020-2021 Conference
The conference whose theme “Leveraging Digital Health Interventions to Enhance Prevention, Response and Control of Public Health Emergencies in Low and Middle Income Countries” was inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic and the role that digital health technologies play in such public health emergencies and particularly, their increasing adoption and use during the current pandemic. The conference also focused on digital solutions in routine care and the role of digital health in supporting continuity of care in a pandemic such as COVID-19. It was aimed at taking lessons learnt from various countries and organizations in implementing and operationalizing digital health solutions to respond to public health emergencies mainly in low and middle resource countries.
Initially to be held in October 2020, the 2020-2021 edition of the annual HELINA (HEaLth INformatics in Africa) conference was rescheduled a number of times as the pandemic unfolded across the globe. From an in-person to be hosted in Kampala, Uganda to a hybrid (both physical and virtual) and eventually, entirely virtual. The conference was held from October, 18th-20th, 2021, hosted by the Uganda Health Informatics Association (UgHIA) in partnership with the Makerere University, School of Public Health, the Ministry of Health of Uganda (MoH), and HELINA.
The three day conference had the privilege of having opening remarks from the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health Uganda, HELINA President, guest speakers from the Program manager of the Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Support Program of Makerere University School of Public Health, Interim Head of the Division for Surveillance and Disease Intelligence, Africa CDC, Global Head of Digital Health Partnerships, Living Goods and a representative from the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) Uganda. The three days included panel presentations, pre-workshops, presentation of case studies among others.
The presentations were focused on the sub-themes listed below:
Digital health initiatives and implementations for public health emergencies, clinical care and surveillance;
Maturity models, approaches and assessment tools for digital health evaluation;
Community level digital health solutions in public health emergencies;
Health information exchange: Open standards, interoperability, data privacy and security, ethical considerations, policy & governance issues including legal and regulatory frameworks;
Open Source Software in healthcare delivery, surveillance and public health emergencies;
eLearning and digital health training for capacity building;
Innovations for remote patient monitoring and care (Telemedicine);
Data science: big data and analytics in healthcare, surveillance and public health emergencies.
The virtual conference which ran for 13 hours (6.5 hours on day one and two, and 4.5 hours on day three) was attended by over 80 participants at any one time from across the globe among which were presenters of abstracts, students, digital health implementers and investors.
The conference concluded with remarks from the President, Dr. Tom Oluoch and a call to the HELINA General Assembly which is slated for January 23rd 2022. Certificates of participation have been awarded to the participants and awards of appreciation to a few speakers.
The Chair of the scientific program of the conference invited original submissions in the following categories: full research papers; work in progress papers; or case study/experience presentations. A total of 44 submissions in these categories were received. A double-blind peer review process was used for evaluating each full research and work in progress paper. These submissions were anonymised before being submitted to reviewers according to their area of expertise. The Scientific Program Committee based their final decision on the acceptance of each submission on the recommendations and comments from reviewers. Accepted submissions were then sent back to the authors for revision according to the reviewers' comments. This review process resulted in the following acceptance rates:
Full research papers: 43% acceptance rate (14 received, 6 accepted);
Work in progress papers: 80% acceptance rate (5 received, 4 accepted);
Case studies and experience papers: 88% acceptance rate (25 received, 22 accepted).
Accepted and presented full research papers will be published in a special edition of the Journal of Health Informatics in Africa (JHIA) – http://www.jhia-online.org – and the accepted work-in-progress papers, case studies/experience papers will be electronically published in the conference Proceedings with ISBN by Koegni-eHealth and made available on the conference website.
Article published online:
02 June 2022
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