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WHO Announces Latest Big Data Analytics Tool for Healthcare – ESPEN Data Portal

WHO Regional Office for AfricaThe World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Africa, through the Expanded Special Project for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases (ESPEN), is making available new analytical tools in the NTD Data Portal allowing Neglected Tropical Diseases programmes and stakeholders to better track rollout and impact of interventions, and make data-driven decisions on strategies.

Big Data in healthcare signifies a massive opportunity for the global marketplace for patient monitoring systems, tropical diseases tracking,  vaccination evaluation campaigns and telemedicine developments. While we are witnessing a rapid uptick in the adoption of Big Data, AI and Machine Learning, and Deep Learning for various healthcare programs in developed and developing economies, the African region seems to be still lagging in this area. The WHO is partnering with leading big data analytics tool providers to amass relevant big data intelligence to solve immediate healthcare problems in Africa. ESPEN Data Portal is an outcome of these efforts.

What is ESPEN Data Portal: A Dedicated Data Portal for NTD Programs

ESPEN is an abbreviation for the Expanded Special Project for Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. ESPEN was established in 2016, and since then, it has helped “to mobilize political, technical and financial resources to accelerate the elimination of the five most prevalent Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs).” ESPEN works in collaboration with the WHO Regional Office for Africa (AFRO), Member States, and NTD partners. ESPEN Data Portal is a positive step forward in the direction of seeing a disease-free Africa. The foundation lies in ESPEN’s ability to quickly collect, analyze and report district-level data in the form of maps and share these with health officials and NTD partners that help the NTD groups to reach key targeted communities within Africa.

Currently, the ESPEN Data Portal enables health ministries and stakeholders to share, and exchange subnational program data, in support of the NTD control and elimination goals.

The consolidated repository hosts data shared by health ministries through the Joint Application Package reporting system and provides a detailed ongoing picture of the status of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) programmes targeting Preventive Chemotherapy NTDs (PC-NTDs). Information is linked at the implementation unit level and can be freely accessed, enabling better tracking of progress, supporting cross-disease coordination, and facilitating comprehensive forward planning. Through the portal, users can readily view, download and validated, reliable longitudinal data and maps for planning and reporting purposes.

“It’s vital that countries do more to combat the variety of Neglected Tropical Diseases that are sadly still so prevalent across so much of Africa, causing millions of citizens severe disabilities and sometimes their lives. Access to updated and more accurate data is vital for countries to implement strategic plans that can truly help to save more lives and eliminate NTDs,” said Dr Maria Rebollo Polo, ESPEN Team Leader at WHO Regional Office for Africa.

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“We encourage Neglected Tropical Disease control programmes across Africa to use this innovative tool so that their activities and investments result in real impact and can be coordinated in the most efficient way, making the most of often scarce resources,” Dr Polo said.

New Analytical Tools for Guiding NTD Country Programs

Evidence-based decision making for Neglected Tropical Diseases helps drive progress. The ESPEN Data Portal has expanded to include a comprehensive suite of data dashboards designed to help Neglected Tropical Diseases programmes better track roll-out and impact of interventions and make data-driven decisions on future strategies.

The new ESPEN Progress and Forecast dashboards allow users to explore key statistics and analytics, graphics and maps, at both sub-national and national level. They outline current endemicity and progress on mass drug administration (MDA) interventions to date for each of the PC-NTDs, together with future treatment and impact assessment needs over the next ten years. The dashboards have been purpose-designed to support national programmes to readily access and use their data, make better-informed decisions, and distribute resources more efficiently. Disease-specific dashboards can be accessed through country pages – simply visit your country page, and select the disease you’re interested in.

Making Better Use of Our Data

To complement the existing suite of maps and datasets, WHO Regional Office for Africa has now developed interactive dashboards detailing both current progress and projections for the next 10 years at the level of implementation. Using historical data compiled under the ESPEN data repository, we have forecasted when MDA interventions will be needed, what type of MDA strategy should be implemented (considering co-endemicity), and when impact assessment should be conducted, to achieve the goals established by the new 2021-2030 Roadmap for the Elimination of Neglected Tropical Diseases. These resources can greatly support the completion of both National Neglected Tropical Diseases Masterplans, and Annual Work Plans.

These are new tools and, as such, may still be improved based on the feedback received from data portal users. We hugely value feedback from Neglected Tropical Diseases country programmes and partners on these new resources and the portal in general.

ESPEN is a WHO project created in the spirit of a public-private partnership with the goal of accelerating the elimination of five PC-NTDs in Africa. Since its launch in May 2016, ESPEN works with domestic and international partners to leverage US$ 17.8 billion in drug donations from pharmaceutical companies to expand coverage and access to treatments, strengthen health systems and provide Universal health coverage of interventions against PC-NTDs in Africa until we reach final elimination of these devastating diseases.

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