U.N. seeks to help modernize information and communication technologies to improve care.
This is the VOA Special English Health Report.
The United Nations is seeking to improve electronic communication for health workers in Africa. Workers in rural areas would have a better way to get training, information and advice from doctors hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away.
In 2005, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution urging countries to plan for "eHealth" services. The idea is to look for ways to use modern information and communications technologies to strengthen health systems.
The World Health Organization says Africa is behind other parts of the world in treating H.I.V./AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. So the United Nations Economic and Social Council is supporting the expansion of telecommunications technology for health care workers.
Telemedicine is another term for eHealth.
Stennar Pedersen is the director of the Norwegian Center for Telemedicine at the University Hospital of North Norway. Doctor Pedersen is working with the W.H.O. He recently met with West African health officials in the Ghanaian capital, Accra. He says the technology can provide easier access to medical specialists and make it easier for people to seek medical information themselves.
Elias Sory is the director general of health services in Ghana. He says eHealth will offer a way to reduce the effects of health worker shortages and make it easier to train existing workers. Doctor Sory says the technology will also make it easier for doctors at Ghana's main teaching hospital, Korle Bu, to share their knowledge.
ELIAS SORY: "If you get a doctor who is away in the village and has come across a case he or she thinks is beyond him or her, why cannot that doctor be able to link up easily with a senior doctor in Korle Bu to get advice on it? So we are not there. But eHealth will get us there.
"The other thing is that medicine is dynamic. Why cannot we use that to train? We do not need all people to come to Korle Bu in order to be upgraded in knowledge; eHealth can bridge that gap. And to me medical education is even one of the most important ingredients in eHealth."
Services must be shaped to fit each country's health care needs and level of technological development. Another issue is patient privacy. The hope is that health ministries will together develop policies on collecting and storing electronic health information about individuals.
And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. Transcripts, MP3s and archives of our reports can be found at voaspecialenglish.com, where you can also post comments. I'm Steve Ember.