RELACSIS Annual Meeting in Mexico
The Latin American and Caribbean Network to Strengthen Health Information Systems (known by its Spanish acronym, RELACSIS) held its annual meeting November 11-13, 2013 in Mexico City, Mexico. The gathering marked the fifth time professionals in the region have come together to share best practices and discuss their work in health information systems. Keeping with digital advancements in the field, discussions this year also focused on participants’ interest in using the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) virtual campus, technology, and electronic health records (EHR) in current and future programs.
A session showcasing nearly 40 posters from some of the more than 80 participants’ projects opened the meeting for the first time. The previously only Spanish-speaking event also offered simultaneous English translation, which allowed for more partners from the Caribbean to participate, including those from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, Surinam, Guyana, and Belize. In total, 25 countries were represented at the meeting.
“This is really going to enrich RELACIS,” said Beatriz Plaza, a Senior Technical Health Specialist with MEASURE Evaluation, of involving more Caribbean partners. Plaza co-manages RELACSIS with Alejandro Giusti, a Regional Adviser on Health and Vital Statistics with PAHO, part of the World Health Organization.
During the meeting, participants led working groups in which they discussed successful best practices currently taking place in their countries and how they can scale them up in the region, along with their works’ results and limitations. Participants also partook in roundtable discussions and attended presentations of successful projects RELACSIS partners have implemented throughout the year. And through sharing best practices, RELACSIS allows its members to adopt projects from other countries. One example of this exchange involved Mexico’s use of an electronic system to assist coding causes of death, and then sharing experiences using the tool with Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Through RELACSIS, the countries then developed work plans to implement the system with assistance from Mexican health officials. In Chile, the implementation experience, with support from Mexico, was positive and resulted in a centralized, electronic coding process.
Formed in 2010, RELACSIS allows professionals working in health information systems in the Latin American and Caribbean region a place to exchange work ideas and results. Its tools for engaging members are the annual meeting, which Plaza said is the primary way members facilitate and share their results, and an online portal where members can continue discussions outside of the meeting. Meeting agendas, RELACSIS work plans, and other materials are available on the portal for reference when organizations are planning and improving their projects.
Though MEASURE Evaluation provides financial and technical support to RELACSIS in collaboration with PAHO, the Canadian International Development Agency, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, the network’s members determine RELACSIS’ purpose and promote sharing of their programs through the community themselves. “The countries are being taken into account, and by being taken into account, there’s more commitment and ownership,” Plaza said.