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VODAN-Africa: a new digital data health infrastructure

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December 12, 2023

The VODAN community is inviting everyone to their presentation day on the 21st of December 2023 in Leiden or online in order to provide updates regarding VODAN, certify data stewards and see the presentations from the Fieldlab teams. For more information about registration, see article.

One pressing issue in Africa revolves around the inadequate management of health data, with a significant concern being the lack of ownership. Frequently, health data is sent abroad, never to return. Moreover, various challenges persist, ranging from technical obstacles to the digitalization of health information to differing data regulations across regions.

This situation leads to a scenario where health data from these countries becomes either unavailable, unusable, or entirely out of reach. The consequences of this extend beyond national borders, hindering both local and international research efforts. Furthermore, it restricts the realization of benefits that digital data could bring to points of care.

Recognizing the need for more valuable and meaningful clinical data in Africa, an international collaborative effort has emerged. This team, comprising of experts from several leading African universities that collaborate with institutions like Leiden University (LUMC) and Stanford University, has developed an innovative digital health data infrastructure known as VODAN-Africa, standing for “The Virus Outbreak Data Network”.

At the core of VODAN-Africa lies the adoption of FAIR principles for data, emphasizing that data should be Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. One distinctive feature is that the data is securely held on-site, ensuring it does not leave the country causing local health facilities to maintain ownership of their data.

This initiative proves instrumental in the fight against highly contagious viral diseases. By increasing the traceability of outbreaks, VODAN-Africa enables more effective disease surveillance and response. Importantly, it allows Africa to harness the benefits of its own health data, promoting self-sufficiency.

Recognizing that comprehensive insights into health determinants are crucial, VODAN-Africa strives to include data from the most vulnerable regions and communities, often overlooked in traditional datasets. This inclusivity is vital for a comprehensive understanding of health determinants, leading to more effective prevention and control measures.

For more information about VODAN-Africa and registration for the event on December 21, 2023, please see the website of VODAN-Africa and the official invitation

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