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Building the data we need to immunise every child

Jeff Weintraub, Gavi 


Mother and baby at a consultation at a Kenyan clinic. Photo: Gavi/Evelyn Hockstein.

Good information is essential to any initiative in global health – or, for that matter, in any development sector. Success depends on knowing enough about the scale, nature and location of global health problems and information about whether efforts to address those problems is making headway. Yet this data is too often not available.

That’s why Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, took the stage last week during the United Nations General Assembly in New York City to announce a new collaboration with Royal Philips. The aim? To develop scalable digital transformation plans aimed at improving the quality of immunisation data in primary and community healthcare in world’s poorest countries.

Alongside Philips Executive Vice President Ronald de Jong, Seth Berkley, Gavi’s CEO, announced the new alliance at a gathering of the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, whose mission is to encourage and support more and better data collection around each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


The partnership event last week. Photo: Gavi/ Jeff Weintraub. 

In spite of tremendous progress over the last decade and a half to raise immunisation coverage rates around the world, there are still many children in need.“1.5 million children under five dying of preventable diseases every year”, explained Berkley. “We need to be able to reach every one of them. How do we do that? We need better quality data.”

“Digital innovation is of key importance to transforming health systems, especially primary healthcare in communities” added de Jong, whose company will draw on its expertise in health IT to do just that.

The partnership will bring together multidisciplinary teams that will help ministries of health build out their own, tailored health information systems. Philips will use its HealthSuite Labs methodology to apply and adopt new technologies and build “bottom-up” forecasting of future local immunisation needs.

Next steps are set to come quickly, with the first team hitting the ground in Uganda to start work on immunisation data by the end of September. But this won’t be a moment too soon, as the task of gathering and utilising information to protect vulnerable children from disease is an urgent and wide-ranging one. 

“The challenge today isn’t just in the distant rural areas,” Berkley said. “More and more, it’s the urban slums, it’s groups that are stigmatised. We have the vaccines; we have the political will. Now we need to find the children who need these life-saving interventions but aren’t getting them. Data is essential to that enterprise.”

Both Gavi and Philips are members of the Global Partnership, which is comprised of governments, NGOs, and businesses and launched in 2015. Find out more about their partnership here.

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