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KINGSTON — Acting Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Hugo Prado, has attributed severe health challenges occurring in some countries, to weak and ineffective information support systems.

However, he said that some countries may be unable to implement effective systems, because they are too poor to afford it.

Speaking at the opening of a 3-day national health information system assessment workshop, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Tuesday (July 26), Dr. Prado said reliable and timely data, the "foundation" of public health in any society, must identify the most pressing needs and implement the most effective interventions.

Noting that public health challenges are becoming increasingly complex, he lamented the "huge gap" between what stakeholders currently know, and what they need to research to improve the standard of healthcare delivery in some countries. However, he admitted that their knowledge and understanding have improved, significantly, due to important investments in data collection.

"Information should be made a core part of the day-to-day management of health systems' planning and delivery," Dr. Prado said.

He explained that strong information systems ensure that data meet high standards of reliability, transparency, and completeness and, for health information systems to function effectively, there are prerequisites that must be in place, and supported by legislative and regulatory systems for confidentiality, security, ownership sharing and rotation of data.

Warning that data alone will not "reveal the full situation", Dr. Prado cited the need for the information to be analyzed and interpreted. Pivotal, he said, was synthesizing data from multiple sources, examining consistencies and contradictions, and summarising health situations and trends to produce consistent assessments   

"Even in the strongest systems, an assessment is likely to reveal relative weaknesses in each component of the health information system. Priorities will need to be set. Strengthening will (need to) be incremental, with step by step implementation of key actions, as resources and capacities permit," he contended.

Over 20 health sector stakeholders are attending the three-day workshop being jointly staged by the Ministry and PAHO, at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel. The forum ends on Friday (July 29).

The workshop is the first step in strengthening Jamaica's health information system, as it provides a roadmap for the development of a national strategic plan, through a consultative process involving multiple stakeholders.      

By Douglas McIntosh, JIS Reporter