UNICEF and WHO Launch Digital Health Centre of Excellence (DICE)

Updated: Jan 11

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A multi-agency COVID Digital Health Centre of Excellence (DICE) co-led by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) launched on April 29th, to provide coordinated technical assistance to national governments and partners on digital health interventions that address health priorities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as post-pandemic health system needs.

The COVID DICE is a consortium of partners, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), GIZ, the US Centre for Disease Control, the European Commission, The Global Fund, The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), the Gavi Alliance, USAID, and the World Bank. It is co-hosted by a UNICEF-WHO virtual secretariat that will be managing day-to-day activities, including coordination with technical partners like Digital Square.

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Although the initiative is currently focused on addressing the immediate needs of the countries in the context of the COVID-19 response, the COVID DICE will also aim to fast track WHO’s Global Digital Health Strategy, thereby laying the foundation for a more comprehensive mechanism for harnessing the power of digital health technologies for overall health systems strengthening, in response to COVID-19 and beyond.

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“UNICEF, WHO, and DICE partners are receiving a steady stream of requests for technical support for establishing digital solutions from governments, as they grapple with the unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Aboubacar Kampo, UNICEF’s Director of Health. He continued, “the DICE will provide critical coordination and technical assistance to support the pandemic response and vaccine delivery, while balancing this with countries’ long-term vision for strengthening of health systems more broadly.” As countries are operationalizing their national COVID-19 pandemic response plans, including deployment plans for the COVID-19 vaccines, they are turning to digital health interventions to amplify efforts to improve service delivery, make decisions based on actionable data, and strengthen health and immunization information systems more broadly.

“Countries have already made significant investments in digital health systems, and many of these platforms can be expanded to provide substantial support to COVID-19 vaccine delivery and beyond,” said Bernardo Mariano Junior, Chief Information Officer and the Director of Digital Health and Innovation at WHO. “However, the enabling digital environment in Lower Middle Income Countries is often fragmented and not geared towards the support of large-scale vaccination delivery to the population.”

Carine Gachen from the Gavi Alliance shares this concern: “Poorly designed or inappropriate digital interventions, as well as vertical approaches geared only for COVID-19 vaccines, risk undermining and weakening national health systems. Countries must rapidly assess, identify, adopt, cost, and deploy robust and ready-to-scale digital health solutions to meet the demands as a pivotal preparation step for successful COVID-19 vaccine delivery.”

DICE will initially leverage existing partner capabilities so that it is operational immediately, and will seek additional funding and partnership support to coordinate and scale its ability to meet rapidly growing demand for assistance to select and deploy global goods for the COVID-19 response.

DICE is working through a roster of consultants, volunteers and partner agencies to respond to country requests. If you would like to get involved or support in other ways, write to: contact@digitalhealthcoe.org with the subject line “SUPPORT” with what services you are able to offer.

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