The Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (ECHO) is a platform for sharing critical, timely (as they occur), lifesaving information and data with healthcare workers at different geographical locations. It was launched in 2017 in partnership with the University of New Mexico and has been operating as a regular weekly virtual forum for discussing outbreak preparedness and response. Its launch was based on the need to promote virtual case-based communities of practice, learning and collaborative problem-solving among healthcare providers.
It facilitates horizontal peer-to-peer and vertical interactions among national, regional and global experts using a combination of real time multipoint videoconferencing and internet technologies to facilitate real-time virtual collaboration, engagement and experience-sharing among geographically dispersed multidisciplinary teams in and outside Africa. This is complemented by online asynchronous interactions, document resource sharing and interactive sessions facilitated by experienced moderators.
Since its launch, the platform has been very useful for sharing information on public health events as they occur. Examples include the sharing of information about preparedness and response to the 10th Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, response to Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, monitoring the numerous cholera outbreaks that affected several African countries in 2017 and 2018, plague outbreak in Madagascar, polio campaign in Kenya, Rift Valley fever outbreak in South Sudan, etc. ECHO is much appreciated for its contribution to strengthening coordination, collaboration and partnerships during disease outbreaks, and its potential to reduce travel time and costs.
In addition, Member States and other stakeholders use it to share information about other public health topics such as NPHI establishment, emerging and zoonotic diseases, detection and response to neglected tropical diseases, knowledge gaps in outbreak detection and response, strengthening antimicrobial surveillance, the International Health Regulations, etc. Pre-testing of IEC materials and mobilization of MS for regional activities, as well as adherence to global obligations has also been done.
The platform is currently deployed in the Eastern Africa, Southern Africa and Central Africa regions and will be extended to the other regions very soon.