By Rosemary Ogbonnaya
LivingScience Foundation Ile-Ife, in conjunction with a number of strategic partners, have organised the sixth National Conference on Environment and Health and disclosed the pitiable state of data generation, management, transformation, and use in Nigeria at the present time.
Contributing to the Conference theme: Harnessing the Potentials of Health Information and Environmental Big Data for Management of Public Health in Nigeria, the stakeholders expressed joy that, a private-driven initiative had been able to bring together various delegates from key sectors to passionately discuss the subject. matter.
The delegates at the conference also expressed ommitment to turning the current ugly situation around for the good of the country.
After the two- day Conference, the stakeholders carefully noted the following: An enormous amount of premium data is continuously being generated in several sectors of national life in Nigeria, saying that if properly structured, appropriately transformed into information, and diligently harnessed, these data could potentially enhance public health in Nigeria and revolutionise the nation’s environmental policies for optimal results in the quest for sustainable development.
They noted that specialised tools and technology, generally known as Big Data analytics, required to transform and interrogate the data to yield invaluable critical information are already available and are routinely deployed in several fields, including Economics, Social Statistics, Games and Entertainment in the country, but there are yet no such activities in the very critical Environment- Public Health sector.
According to the delegates, this unfortunate situation would not be redressed until local stakeholders in the Environment-Health sector come together and consciously take matters into their own hands. “No help can be expected from foreigners in this matter as there are very few commercial incentives involve,” they said.
The Conference noted that apart from sundry technical issues such as interoperability and accessibility, a major cog in the wheel of developing a robust functional Environment-Health database is the issue of governance and ownership, saying that due to a combination of lack of enthusiasm, transparency, and mutual trust, critical stakeholders had often failed to cooperate either in sharing their data in a common database or even patronizing such databases when strenuous efforts were made to initiate them.
Also, in their observations, the stakeholders said the National Conference on Environment and Health is already a huge step in the right direction and should be leveraged for more positive outcomes, saying that Health Records and Information Management Professionals (HRIMPs) are Key elements in this affair but unfortunately, they are currently not accorded due recognition for the important work they are trained to
“Often, their space is assigned, on a part-time basis, to other
professionals or even barely-trained casual staff. This turn of events has significantly hampered quality data generation, processing and proper
utilization. It has also left many HRIMPs discouraged on their job.
” In many cases, health data and information are generated and managed in
silos within disparate entities (such as independently-funded Cancer registries), even within the same health facility. This has further created friction and sometimes tension in the management of health records and precluded the creation of needed health information,” they observed.
The Conference, therefore, recommended that as required by accrediting bodies, every data-generating unit within the Health Information Management Department and the hospital at large should be staffed by well-trained and well-motivated Health Records Officers.
Also, Health information and medical records should be integrated within the same health facility and efforts should be made to digitise them, as far as funds will permit.
The Conference said there is an urgent need for the establishment of National Health Information Management Policy that will detail the procedures for release of patients’ health information for treatment, research and planning.
Others include: Stakeholders across various sectors must collaborate actively; Postgraduate students from academia (Universities, Research Institutes
and other tertiary institutions) should be encouraged to tackle real-life problems in active collaboration with professionals in the industry and government Ministries, Departments and Agencies; practitioners and professionals from industries and government MDAs are encouraged to apply for postgraduate studies (certificate), and many others.