Wanjiru Mburu on health data and the work she is leading on sandboxes in the context of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)




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Wanjiru Mburu, Digital Health Consultant, Qhala.

As a digital health researcher, I advocate for the implementation of digital health tools to expand access to health care which subsequently results in improved patient’s health outcomes through personalized treatment plans. However, the implementation of health startups in Africa is hampered by health policies and regulations that inhibit the sharing of health data.

There is a need for healthcare experts, practitioners, and patients to collaborate and identify responsible ways that health data could be shared to improve healthcare services. This collaborative approach of harmonizing/ developing health data policies is what I refer to as “responsibly unlocking data for all.”

African countries have varying health policies and data regulations that hamper the scale of digital innovations. In such a case, sandboxes could allow health stakeholders to trial and test their policies and innovation in a safe space before their widespread adoption and implementation.

This approach has considerable potential to be used in accelerating health technology assessment (HTA) methods and policy developments, particularly in response to new innovations.

Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched the digital transformation health strategy in March 2023. Among the flagships launched during the event included the health innovation and data sandbox flagship.

As part of the Qhala team, I am coordinating the sandbox co-creation workshops which bring together health stakeholders,  experts, government representatives, health startups, and end users to collaborate in harmonizing health policies in Africa.

We are also working on developing health data governance to ensure data sharing among African countries.

The Africa Digital Transformation Strategy policy framework will help the innovators test their solutions before implementing them.

  • Read more from other contributors in this blog series here
  • The Datasphere Initiative has launched a complete online learning experience: “A Guide to Cross-Border Sandboxes for Data.” Enroll for the online course here.

Wanjiru Mburu is a digital health researcher who is passionate about using technological solutions to bridge the healthcare digital divide in developing countries. She believes that digital health solutions hold promise for improving population health, but unless they are developed and tested with the users, the ultimate impact will be limited. 

Wanjiru has over 10 years of experience in  User Experience research in health and other fields from over African countries, including Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, and Uganda. Intent on promoting Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) in and from Africa, Wanjiru has been part of the technical committee that organized the HCI conference in Africa (AFRICHI) since 2016 to date.

She is currently a digital health consultant at Qhala where she is spearheading health-related research in Africa. She holds a Ph.D. and Masters degree from the Department of Computer Science, University of Cape Town.

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