April 2007

The e-Health Initiatives and Challenges in Peru

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The revolution in science and technology has caused deep changes in human development and its values, with positive and negative impacts on all spheres of society, particularly on human health. Latin America is faced with several development challenges, chief among them are public health epidemics, environmental degradation, vulnerability of rampant poverty, geopolitical climate, impediments towards expansion of education and social services, and limited trade competitiveness. The value of ICTs, particularly in addressing these challenges, as well as improving access to information required for decision making, research and production, is now well recognized as governments continue supporting them as powerful change agents throughout the Latin America region. Peru presents a potential for ICT applications in social sectors, education, health, and political participation.

In Peru it has been heartening to see the establishment of strategic alliances between public institutions and civil society organizations, through the various collaboration methods using ICTs. The community effect is reflected in the promotion of greater familiarization with the use of the Internet, and assisting medical team's involvement and access with the activities of the community.

Today the threat of infectious diseases like pneumonia, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases, malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS have assumed global proportions and is threatening hardwon gains in health and life expectancy. The threat is hanging over the civilization like a Damocles Sword. Contagious diseases like AIDS are now the world's biggest killer of children and young adults.

They account for more than 13 million deaths a year, that is one in two deaths in developing countries. For tackling them, ICT can be an effective weapon. Now ICTs have proven to be a powerful tool in improving the quality of healthcare for people globally, and only an improved healthcare on a sustained basis can root out the incidence of contagious diseases in the long run.

There are also many information society healthcare technologies, which can improve patient care, while others can make health systems more efficient and responsive. ICT for Health (also known as e-Health) describes the application of information and communications technologies across the whole range of functions that affect the healthcare sector, from the doctors to the hospital managers, via nurses, data processing specialists, social security administrators and of course, the patients themselves, and local communities.

e-Health is very much needed in Latin America, where about 220 million people languish in poverty, with little access to conventional healthcare. In the Latin American context, Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Tropical Medicine

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