Nursing Officer Pauline Nalutaaya collects and sends the weekís public health data to the district headquarters at Butenga Health Centre IV, in Bukomansimbi District, Uganda in September 2013. ©UNICEF/Vassie

The UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities singled digital health as one avenue to improve national delivery of essential commodities for women and children.  Examples showed that digital health solutions can improve forecasting and stock-out reporting , as well as increase demand and care-seeking associated with texting of health information and appointment reminders.

Pooling expertise on Digital Health

The most effective health commodities cannot make a positive impact if knowledgeable and appropriately trained health workers are not available to deliver them, nor if the demand is not generated with the beneficiaries of the health system. Barriers to increased demand among health workers include lack of training in and knowledge about the efficacy and use of a particular product, outdated standards of practice, and policies restricting certain types of health workers—including community health workers and pharmacists—from prescribing and administering lifesaving commodities. For the beneficiaries, barriers include lack of knowledge or access to the commodities and how to use them appropriately.

Recognizing that digital health can help enhance the life-saving commodities approach, the Digital Health TRT was formed. The Digital Health TRT provides strategic advisory support across all of the TRTs to leverage and appropriately apply technology in their programs. Specific work has included advising and coordinating the development of digital health learning platforms and job aids to help increase performance and improve capacity among health workers, reviewing the use of digital tools for integrated community case management and collaboratively developing a framework for harmonization, as well as developing and sharing resources to orient public health practitioners and decision-makers to digital health in RMNCAH and digital health for demand generation.

Through these initiatives, the ultimate goal was to ensure that essential commodities are provided when and where they are needed in the best way possible, reaching those who need them the most and subsequently helping save lives.


Progress to date

  • Mapped support systems, including digital health applications, for health worker performance
  • Provided recommendations to EWEC countries on digital health tools to help address health worker performance gaps
  • Provided technical assistance to help countries review select digital health applications that could help with rapid implementation and uptake of the life-saving commodities (and others)
  • Established an inventory of digital tools relevant for the Commission
  • Launched digital health toolkits for demand generation and RMNCAH with hosting on the Life-Saving Commodities, HC3’s I-Kit and HealthEnabled’s Resources websites
  • Advocated on UNCoLSC activities and commodity-driven strategies among the digital health community
  • Raised awareness, increased exposure and advisory support on digital health to the broader public health community (namely through the TRTs)
  • Developed a digital learning platform for chlorhexidine, through a partnership of PATH (on behalf of the Chlorhexidine Working Group and through APHIAplus), Kenya Ministry of Health, Moi University Institute of Biomedical Informatics (IBMI) and HealthEnabled
  • Released a digital support tool for MgSO4 dosing and administration, through a partnership of PATH, Moi IBMI and HealthEnabled
  • Conducted a landscape assessment of digital health tools for integrated community case management in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda, through a partnership of D-Tree International, the Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group/Child Health TRT and HealthEnabled
  • Convened an interactive and productive ministerial workshop with representatives from government and the digital health communities in Kenya, Malawi and Uganda
  • Developed and validated a harmonization framework for digital health tools, through a partnership of D-tree International, the Diarrhea and Pneumonia Working Group/Child Health TRT and HealthEnabled, with inputs from various stakeholders including government representatives from Kenya, Malawi and Tanzania, as well as implementing partners