i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Space and Health in Africa

Posted by Simon Adebola on May 28, 2008

How can space technology help improve health care in Africa? Let us take a brief look at this question and mention some of the possibilities that exist as we seek to find an answer. It is certain that the introduction, development and implementation of these technologies would serve to bestow sufiicient gain to make the investment in them worthwhile.

It was at the Third United Nations conference (UNISPACE III) organized by the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNCOPUOS) that an action team was set up with the following mission “To foster the implementation of tele-health for developing countries and to improve public health services by facilitating the applications of space technologies in early warning of infectious diseases.” This is a welcome development knowing that developing countries especially those in the Sub-Saharan African region have the worst disease burden in the world. This is evident in the latest UNDP human development index ratings in which none of these countries were in the 1st 120 out of 177 nations. There is a need to put all hands on deck and to utilize the best means available in addressing the situation. Thus the utilization of space science and technology (SST) to this end is not a luxury and holds great potential in helping African Nations ‘leap frog’ in an attempt to bridge the gap in healthcare and human development. The utilization of space technologies in healthcare in Africa has been on for over three decades. The applications of space technology in healthcare include the following key areas.
1. Landscape epidemiology (tele-epidemiology): The use of remote sensing data and satellite imagery in the analysis of disease epidemiological data to support disease surveillance and monitoring.
2. Telemedicine and Tele-health: the use of communications and information technologies for the delivery of clinical care and in healthcare.
3. Disaster Management: Aside from its potential in mitigation, in the event of climatic, geographic, environmental hazards or humanitarian crises space technology is useful in instituting a rapid and effective response by providing detailed coverage of affected areas and populations and providing decision support for relief efforts.
4. Decision Support Systems: This is the use of space technologies in developing information systems to aid as tools in healthcare policy, planning and management.

We stand to gain a lot as individuals and as a people from the embracing of the use of technology as a virile part of our social development. It is clear that the area of healthcare deserves to be a priority in this movement for social change, and the benefits to be derived from providing an improved technological infrastructure, to strengthen the backbone of healthcare delivery in Africa, are indeed enormous.

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