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The role of digital surveillance during outbreaks: the Ghana experience from COVID‑19 response

Isaac Owusu, Gideon K. Acheampong, Ernest Akyereko, Nii A. Agyei, Mawufemor Ashong, Isaac Amofa, Rebecca A. Mpangah, Ernest Kenu, Richard G. Aboagye, Collins Adu, Kingsley Agyemang, Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe
Journal of Public Health in Africa | Vol 14, No 10 | a78 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4081/jphia.2023.2755 | © 2024 Isaac Owusu, Gideon K. Acheampong, Ernest Akyereko, Nii A. Agyei, Mawufemor Ashong, Isaac Amofa, Rebecca A. Mpangah, Ernest Kenu, Richard G. Aboagye, Collins Adu, Kingsley Agyemang, Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 March 2024 | Published: 30 October 2023

About the author(s)

Isaac Owusu, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters, Ghana
Gideon K. Acheampong, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters, Ghana
Ernest Akyereko, Faculty of Geo‑Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands; and, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters, Ghana
Nii A. Agyei, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
Mawufemor Ashong, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
Isaac Amofa, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
Rebecca A. Mpangah, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters
Ernest Kenu, Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program, School of Public Health, University of Ghana
Richard G. Aboagye, Department of Family and Community Health, Fred N. Binka School of Public Health, University of Health and Allied Sciences, Hohoe, Ghana
Collins Adu, College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Sciences, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland
Kingsley Agyemang, Division of Global Public Health, Brunel University London, United Kingdom
Anthony Nsiah-Asare, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters, Ghana
Franklin Asiedu-Bekoe, Ghana Health Service, Headquarters, Ghana

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Abstract

Over the years, Ghana has made notable strides in adopting digital approaches to address societal challenges and meet demands. While the health sector, particularly the disease surveillance structure, has embraced digitization to enhance case detection, reporting, analysis, and information dissemination, critical aspects remain to be addressed. Although the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR) structure has experienced remarkable growth in digitization, certain areas require further attention as was observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ghana during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognized the importance of leveraging digital technologies to bolster the public health response. To this end, Ghana implemented various digital surveillance tools to combat the pandemic. These included the ‘Surveillance Outbreak Response Management and Analysis System (SORMAS)’, the digitalized health declaration form, ArcGIS Survey123, Talkwalker, ‘Lightwave Health information Management System’ (LHIMS), and the ‘District Health Information Management System (DHIMS)’. These digital systems significantly contributed to the country's success in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. One key area where digital systems have proved invaluable is in the timely production of daily COVID-19 situational updates. This task would have been arduous and delayed if reliant solely on paper-based forms, which hinder efficient reporting to other levels within the health system. By adopting these digital systems, Ghana has been able to overcome such challenges and provide up-to-date information for making informed public health decisions. This paper attempts to provide an extensive description of the digital systems currently employed to enhance Ghana's paper-based disease surveillance system in the context of its response to COVID-19. The article explores the strengths and challenges or limitations associated with these digital systems for responding to outbreaks, offering valuable lessons that can be learned from their implementation.

Keywords

COVID-19; outbreak response; digital innovation; disease surveillance; digital surveillance

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