From 19 to 20 February 2019, representatives of African Union Member States met at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa to discuss how to establish an Africa CDC Health Situation Room that will connect health information systems from different African countries.
The Situation Room is a software application developed by UNAIDS, which directly accesses HIV/AIDS information systems within Member States and produces flexible and readily comprehensible reports for decision-making by health officials.
“The Situation Room is a concept which UNAIDS initiated to make data revolution a reality in the AIDS response. We want to take the initiative forward in driving data for improving health in the whole continent,” said Taavi Erkkola from UNIADS
The Situation Room has already shown success in some African countries in translating HIV/AIDS data into decision-making. It has also been adopted to aggregate surveillance and programme data for a few additional health conditions in Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Africa CDC and UNAIDS anticipate that expanding the situation room to cover other diseases in more African countries can help improve disease prevention and control.
“The Situation Room is an innovative tool that has been applied successfully to HIV, but the mandate of Africa CDC is beyond HIV/AIDS, therefore, we want to see how to expand the Situation Room to cover all other diseases,” said Dr John Nkengasong, Director Africa CDC.
The Situation Room can help standardize the way public health information is collected and presented by Member States. It will improve understanding of disease burden to improve response efforts.
“Most outbreaks are often detected late and acted upon poorly, so we want to close the gap between what is detected and what is done through timely data and information. The Situation Room is another tool that can help collect information about events. We’re here to discuss whether Member States can adopt it to enhance their ability to take appropriate action,” said Dr Jay Varma, Senior Advisor at Africa CDC.
Presentations at the meeting were made on experiences and lessons from Member States that are already using the Situation Room. Participants discussed how to enhance collaboration on data for the situation room between the different health programmes at the country and regional levels, internet connectivity, ownership of data and the platform, how to improve data quality, and how to gain interest and commitment of country leadership for the Situation Room.
To implement the Situation Room, Member States will develop, with assistance from Africa CDC and UNAIDS, concept notes and action plans, including the appointment of a national project management team and training of operations staff.