Patricia (Patti) Abbott, PhD, RN, FAAN, FACMI, an internationally recognized expert in informatics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing (JHUSON), is an invited presenter and participant in this month's Rockefeller Foundation conference, Making the eHealth Connection: Global Partnerships, Local Solutions, at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center in Bellagio, Italy. Abbott, with 25 other experts in global health, international development, and information and communications technology, will join in this unique initiative to build global consensus and establish partnerships to improve health systems in developing countries. Abbott will contribute her expertise to the session Access to Information and Knowledge Sharing, which is designed to generate action ideas on how digital technologies can improve health and health systems in developing countries, known as the Global South.
"Improving global health is a multi-pronged effort," says Abbott. "We need to build the information infrastructure to support the delivery, management, evaluation, and research behind global health initiatives." She notes that recent efforts by the Gates Foundation, Rockefeller, the World Health Organization (WHO), and others have raised awareness about eHealth, the idea of incorporating emerging digital technologies in efforts to improve the health of poor and vulnerable people throughout the world. "We need to know what works and what does not, what is culturally and contextually appropriate, what is sustainable and what is not," adds Abbott.
Abbott, who is a member of the Department of Health Systems and Outcomes at JHUSON, also uses her expertise in eHealth initiatives in her role as Co-Director of the PAHO/WHO (Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization) Collaborating Center for Nursing Knowledge, Information Management, and Sharing at Johns Hopkins University. In a project launched in 2006, the Global Alliance for Nursing and Midwifery Community of Practice (GANM CoP), Abbott initiated an innovative electronic Community of Practice, specifically designed for nurses, midwives, and other community care providers in diverse and remote practice settings throughout the world.
"There's a dawning realization that an important tool in the quest to improve global health includes information and communication technology [ICT]," says Abbott. This idea is recognized in the main goal of the conference: identifying workable solutions and giving impetus for collaborative funding, designing, and deploying eHealth systems in developing countries and around the world. Information and communication technology is everywhere, even in the most remote and incredibly poor locales in the globe, adds Abbott. Of course, ICT can be used to improve the health and wealth of communities, but the connectivity aspect goes much further. For example, according to Abbott, a major contributor to out-migration of health professionals (brain drain) from underserved areas is a sense of isolation and low access to continuing education. "ICT can provide a life line to remote providers, helping to connect them and the communities they serve with knowledge resources, opportunities, and, often times, just someone to dialog with," says Abbott.
In connection with the conference, Abbott has been commissioned by the Foundation to co-author a research paper, The Impact of Social Intelligence. The paper will address the issue of tacit knowledge contributions in online communities, which can help foster a more rapid exchange of knowledge and best practices in connection to global eHealth initiatives.
Visit the Rockefeller conference website, starting July 13th, at http://www.ehealth-connection.org, to see blog posts about conference proceedings, video clips and interviews with key participants, and learn more about global eHealth initiatives and collaborations.