Rockefeller Foundation supports expansion, training of e-health work force in developing world

February 19, 2010

The Rockefeller Foundation has awarded a $630,100 project support grant to the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) to support the initial implementation this year of a global e-Health training program in sub-Saharan Africa designed for primary care providers, technical staff and health policy-makers. The Rockefeller grant will support Health Informatics Building Blocks (HIBBs), a program developed by AMIA in which distance-learning supports clinical and health informatics training in low-resource countries where greater understanding and use of informatics and databases can enable better support of community care and public health services. This education initiative will provide an infrastructure that enables a broad audience such as community health workers in developing countries to acquire skills and knowledge in informatics at little or no cost to indigenous institutions or individuals.

"HIBBs implementation enables AMIA to develop fruitful partnerships with sub-Saharan Health Ministries, universities, and other organizations working locally to help provide education in clinical and health informatics--a forward-reaching and patient-focused strategy," said AMIA President Ted Shortliffe. "Skillful informatics training not only will improve health outcomes for millions of people who depend on local clinics, physicians, nurses, midwives and community health workers for their personal care, it also will offer opportunities to improve livelihoods of thousands of people interested in health and medical careers, and health information technology."

By the end of 2010, AMIA will introduce three HIBBs prototypes to test in partnership with sub-Saharan African organizations. Each informatics training module will provide e-health knowledge and skills for individuals in low-resource environments who are involved in: 1) planning and implementing health-related information and technology systems and who make policy decisions about such systems; 2) people who use health information technology (HIT) to provide health care and/or public health services; and 3) people who develop and manage HIT infrastructures for organizations. HIBBs are designed to be granular, modular, portable, reusable, and adaptable.

"The application of health informatics on the ground, which HIBBS provides, benefits healthcare and policy professionals and empowers them to help improve healthcare in their home countries," said Karl Brown, Rockefeller Foundation Associate Director of Applied Technology. "A multitude of families and individuals will be impacted."

While providing low- or no-cost training to workers in sub-Saharan Africa, the HIBBs initiative is responsive to a World Health Organization report published in 2008 that cited Sub-Saharan Africa with dire need of 1.5 million more health workers to provide basic services for its population.

"We are excited about the HIBBs program's potential to enhance professional capacity to plan and manage high-performing health systems, a key Rockefeller Foundation focus for transforming health systems," Brown added.

Typically, a HIBB will be one to four hours in length and made available for local organizations to help meet specific training needs. When technologically possible, HIBBs content may be offered via web-streaming. Alternatively, they may be offered on CDs or as software designed for handheld devices or mobile phones. HIBBs will emphasize rapid, efficient, and qualitative acquisition of practical knowledge and skills that health workers need to carry out their jobs rather than provision of informatics education leading to formal degrees. Emphasis will be placed on development, implementation, maintenance, evolution, and use of electronic health records (EHRs) and public health data reporting. Developed first in English, HIBBs subsequently may be translated into other languages by local users. Local customization will help ensure content that is socially relevant and culturally appropriate.

"As the international community places greater emphasis on health system strengthening, e-Health and capacity building will play an absolutely critical role," says Andrew Kanter, MD MPH, Director of Health Information Systems for the Millennium Villages Project and a professor of clinical biomedical informatics at Columbia University, NY. "HIBBs will provide on-the-ground solutions to help countries build strength in e-health while also achieving Millennium Development Goals." The Millennium Development Goals are drawn from the actions and targets contained in the Millennium Declaration adopted by 189 nations and signed by 147 heads of state and governments during the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000.
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About AMIA

AMIA is a professional association whose 4,000 members advance the use of health information and communications technology in clinical care, clinical research, personal health management, public health, and translational science to improve health delivery systems and health overall. Complete program information appears at www.amia.org

About the Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation fosters innovative solutions to many of the world's most pressing challenges, affirming its mission, since 1913, to "promote the well-being" of humanity. Today, the Foundation works to ensure that more people can tap into the benefits of globalization while strengthening resilience to its risks. Foundation initiatives include efforts to mobilize an agricultural revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa, bolster economic security for American workers, inform equitable, sustainable transportation policies in the United States, ensure access to affordable and high-quality health systems in developing countries, accelerate the impact investing industry's evolution, and develop strategies and services that help vulnerable communities cope with the impacts of climate change. For more information, please visit www.rockefellerfoundation.org

American Medical Informatics Association

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