Health Situation Room changes landscape of data surveillance in eastern and southern Africa

23 September 2019

An increasing number of countries in eastern and southern Africa (ESA) have launched and are implementing the Health Situation Room platform to manage and coordinate their data on health and related issues.

The purpose of the Health Situation Room is to enable policymakers and programme managers at each level to access relevant health-related data in an easy and interactive manner. This means using automated, frequently updated data visualization tools that are mobile and accessible any time.

Data integration, data warehousing and data visualization are the core of the Situation Room concept, providing transparent and improved information on a range of diseases.

“The UNAIDS Fast-Track strategy leans heavily on making efficient use of limited financial and human resources by implementing the right intervention for the right populations in the right locations. This is only possible if data is made available to support such decision making and that is what the Health Situation Room is all about,” says Catherine Sozi, Director of UNAIDS Regional Support Team for Eastern and Southern Africa.

The effectiveness and sustainability of the Health Situation Room depends on the capacity of national authorities related to information technology administration, dashboard creation and dashboard interpretation using the Sisense data visualization platform.

Recently UNAIDS held a four-day training workshop where participants from eleven countries from across the ESA region came together to build their capacity on how to independently initiate, manage and maintain their Health Situation Room for timely and efficient devolution.

“In Uganda we have a number of reporting systems [on HIV-related data]. Before Situation Room implementation, we had a challenge of harmonizing all these reporting systems together. The Situation Room helped us put together all those reporting systems into a ‘one-stop centre’ where you get all the information,” said Charles Otai, of the Uganda AIDS Commission.

Situation Rooms collect data in one place, on one system, in a form that is easily shared. The information held by the Situation Room can be utilized on tablets, computers or mobile phones throughout the country and beyond. It is real-time data and information easily usable by politicians, decision-makers, programme managers, civil society organisations and key development partners.

“After the launch of the Situation Room in Zimbabwe, from the government’s perspective, the idea was to scale it up beyond just an HIV Situation Room into an Integrated Health Situation Room, including other diseases and programmes. Coming to this training is our first step to integrate other diseases,” said Manes Munyanyi, Deputy Director of Zimbabwe National Health Information Surveillance.

Accordingly, Health Situation Room is helping realize the commitment to take AIDS out of isolation and integrating it into the broader development agenda. Countries that have already implemented the tool are pooling data from different sectors and disease areas, such as HIV, Tuberculosis, Malaria, non-communicable diseases, as well as sexual, reproductive, maternal, new-born, child and adolescent health.