This month we are very pleased to profile one of our international members, Denis Ssenyonwa.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. I’m Denis Ssenyondwa; I have a comprehensive nursing (RN DIV.1), Public health and Health Promotion academic background. I have also undertaken postgraduate training in health systems strengthening, implementation research, leadership and management in health from the University of Melbourne, University of Ghana, and University of Washington respectively. I have 12 years experience and spent one year (2011-2012) in Australia’s rural Victoria and Queensland in Aged care, sub-acute and acute areas.
In Uganda, I have engaged in digital liver elastography, infectious diseases-HIV, Hepatitis, STIs etc and chronic diseases coordination in clinical research and care. My current research focus is applying implementation science and digital health research to address chronic diseases and communicable diseases in health systems with special attention to equity. Specifically, I have expressed a digital interventions implementation evaluative research proposal on chronic pain in rural Australia-looking up to a mentorship fellowship or HDR opportunity at the University of Sydney.
How do you define digital health? It’s a revolutionary interdisciplinary specialty of health promotion which involves application of ICT to solve clinical and public health problems. Its interventions, innovations and strategies range from medical apps, decision support systems, telehealth, digital machines to artificial intelligence. DH requires a collaborative approach to realize its impact.
What do you think will enable digital health projects and innovations to succeed? It is indisputable and indispensable that digital health technologies are an emerging potential to significantly contribute to the prevention and control of Non-communicable diseases and communicable diseases. However, their success depends on working beyond innovation and business marketing.
Firstly, it will involve strategic continuous engagement with epidemiology data systems and health systems problems to determine the appropriateness and alignment of digital health interventions, innovations and strategies to health related problems of relevance.
Secondly, during the research and development process each digital health innovation or intervention or strategy should be tested for feasibility, acceptability, implementation cost and fidelity among other implementation outcomes and not only efficiency and efficacy. Short of this, Non-adoption, abandonment and unsustainable utilization will be perennial.
Thirdly, the developed interventions or innovations should be promoted with clear research evidence of their impact on health systems, individual and population health outcomes in the different contexts. A global perspective would perhaps be more health promoting.
Fourthly, digital health technologies should always be presented as a business case to decision makers and implementers forums especially in terms of, affordability, demand and supply that is realistic and appropriate to clinical and public health financing models.
Fifthly and perhaps the most important, it is imperative to open up mentorship opportunities to potential value adding researchers and implementers regardless of their country of birth or citizenship in universities such as university of Sydney with high level expertise in the fields of study facilitating innovation and up scaling of these interventions. This would attract talents to the field and create a community of likeminded people to research, lead and implement.
What do you think are the biggest challenges facing digital health at the moment? I’m only two years clamouring for Digital health at a wider scale. I have noticed that although DH interventions, innovations and strategies have extensive evidence at R&D, they actually have extremely less evidence on implementation effectiveness, cost and sustainability.
Secondly, Digital health professionals have not been formally recognized as specialists in both clinical and public health areas of health systems in many contexts of the world.
Thirdly, the digital divide aggravates access challenges hence making these clever technologies less realistic to the potential actors that will fully need them.
Do you have any interesting resources or helpful networks people should know about?
Yes I do, these include:
The lancet digital health journal, available at: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/landig/issue/vol3no5/PIIS2589-7500(21)X0005-2
Digital health European Cardiology Review journal, available at: https://www.ecrjournal.com/guideline/about-ecr
Digital Health ECR Community in Sydney, available at: https://dhin.net.au/digital-health-ecr-community/
The agency for clinical innovation, available at: https://aci.health.nsw.gov.au/
Connect with Denis
A very big thank you Denis for taking the time to be our May member feature!