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Health+Tech | Child health and technology

Doug Halsall, Chairman and CEO, Advanced Integrated Systems

Technology has been steadily developing in the healthcare industry for more than a decade. Many countries are moving towards full digitisation and interoperability of public and private healthcare facilities to include electronic medical records. Computers, cell phones and apps have all allowed persons to access healthcare and talk to their physician remotely, while keeping track of various aspects of their health.

It is believed that technology has and will continue to bring increased efficiency to healthcare and result in major improvements all around. Digitisation has been largely generalised but most seem to focus on adult care. However, healthcare for children is just as important and may not fit neatly into the slots that adults enjoy. It may be important, therefore, to make specific accommodation for children to ensure that they are served by the technology that we seek to put in place.

There needs to be embedded within the technology specific information towards the development and growth of children that will be useful for analyses. This presents us with a unique opportunity. If we are able to collate health information on children from birth until adulthood, we would have generated the kind of information that can provide a clear view of the status of health within the country, projections for the future and programmes and interventions that will be needed to make significant improvements.

The Child Health and Development passport produced a few years ago by the Ministry of Health and required for each child at birth provides some of the information such as immunisation history, growth charts, tracking physical and mental development, as well as education and nutrition, all of which would be important data sets for the technology with respect to children. This, along with their electronic medical records and linkages, which can be made with family health and genetics, can provide a plethora of information towards improving the overall health of children. This would lead to a healthier adult population over time and a more productive workforce.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), in its Plan of Action for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescent Health, 2018-2030, explained that there are many indicators that need to be addressed for overall improvement to the health of children. However, it is important to start with the data so that countries can have a true picture of the issues that they need to address and the gaps they need to fill.

PAHO explains that the “lack of strategic information to monitor health status and inequities and to inform the development of transformative approaches to health interventions …” is a problem among many Caribbean and Latin American countries. In addition, PAHO advocates for a life course approach to health, which takes into consideration all stages of life, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age within their various social settings.

PAHO indicates that this approach “requires different types of data, including longitudinal data on exposures and evolving health trajectories in individuals and groups that link with other data sets outside of the health sector”. Without this data it is difficult to assess and monitor health in any holistic way.

Data mining via the use of health technology can solve this problem, provide useful information to underpin critical decisions and support evidence-based solutions. Data mining allows for analysing large amounts of data to determine patterns and trends that may exist, with a view to finding solutions, forecasting and predicting future possibilities. A data-driven, decision support approach to solutions in healthcare has to be at the forefront of our attempts to resolve long-standing health issues and put policies and structures in place to address them.

We can achieve our goal of a healthier population if we focus on using the technology to monitor, maintain and ensure the health of children. It is known that health can affect many other areas of society, such as education and economic development. The technology can eventually lead to positive change in many areas, that can benefit the country overall.

- Doug Halsall is chairman and CEO of Advanced Integrated Systems. Email feedback to doug.halsall@gmail.com and editorial@gleanerjm.com

Published: Sunday | June 27, 2021 | 12:11 AM