IMPLEMENTING A CARIBBEAN HEALTH RESEARCH INFORMATICS NETWORK
By Gene D. Morse, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS
Small island nations in the Caribbean face diverse health challenges. To address these challenges, health systems in the region need to be strengthened, especially in the area of surveillance and monitoring of health outcomes. This step is also a critical input for countries to be able to achieve the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular, Goal 3 which promotes good health and wellbeing. There are major gaps to be closed in the collection and analysis of data and the monitoring of trends, reported annually in a scorecard fashion to aid in evaluating the effectiveness of interventions.
In 2015, a collaboration between the State University of New York (SUNY) and the University of the West Indies (UWI) was established, leading to the SUNY-UWI Center for Leadership and Sustainable Development. One component of this center is the SUNY-UWI Health Research Task Force, with membership from both university systems. The Task Force has completed a planning period and has initiated a collaboration to address regional health priorities, including infectious diseases; cancer; diabetes; liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal diseases; as well as building an innovative research program that links natural products and complementary medicines with new technologies, such as nanomedicine development.
Early in the planning period, the team recognized that building a Health Research Informatics Network under the umbrella of a broader Caribbean Communication and Informatics Network is key to conducting innovative health research that will lead to better care. This effort is led by the Center for Integrated Global Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, with additional partnerships with the SUNY Global Health Institute and the Jamaican Ministry of Health. The Health Research Informatics Network will work with clinical research centers, community health centers, and other providers to collect data on health outcomes, analyze trends, and make recommendations.
The network has the following objectives; 1) Create a Health Research Informatics Network that will provide a foundation for pilot health research projects in Jamaica, with the capability to expand to all member nations of the Association of Caribbean States, 2) Provide a cloud-based space to integrate digital sources of data from clinical research centers, community health research sites, electronic health records, pharmacy information systems, patient-centered biosensors, research laboratory data management systems, and cell phone data sources, 3) Utilize existing SUNY-based, high-performance computing centers for data collection, storage, analytics, and dashboard reporting.
The project will be sustained through mechanisms that include stakeholders such as business, government, academia, and global institutions by providing output metrics that are needed for regional health maintenance, economic forecasting, workforce development, and infrastructure planning. Further, dashboard reporting will increase the availability and transparency of data on health in the countries served and provide a structure for achieving the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“SUNY Buffalo and the University of the West Indies are members of the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.” If you have an interest in this project, please comment your interest with your Linkedin profile link.
About the Author, Gene Morse: He also is co-director of the SUNY Global Health Institute. Morse has been actively involved in HIV clinical pharmacology research since the introduction of antiretrovirals in 1986, with more recent emphasis on HCV infection and drug development. He has National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ support for the UB AIDS Clinical Trials Group, Pharmacology Specialty Laboratory and a contract for the HIV Clinical Pharmacology Quality Assurance Program. These programs integrate with the NIH Fogarty International Center AIDS International Training and Research Program, which Morse directs with the University of Zimbabwe and is home to the Center of Excellence in Clinical Pharmacology.