How Digital Health Solutions Can Build Health System Resiliency

September 10th, 2021 | Viewpoint


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the wide range of social, economic, and environmental factorsfrom wildlife trade to climate changethat contribute to the spillover of zoonotic viruses from animals to people. It has also underscored the value of technology in all aspects of life, but specifically in public health systems. 

While it is impossible to be completely prepared for any potential health outbreak, the public health community agrees that an increased focus on building resiliency can help in withstanding various shocks and stresses. (The Lancet defines health system resilience as “the capacity of health actors, institutions, and populations to prepare for and effectively respond to crises; maintain core functions when a crisis hits; and, informed by lessons learned during the crisis, reorganize if conditions require it.”)

Robust digital platforms enabled timely and innovative solutions during COVID-19. They can also help prevent the next zoonotic-origin pandemic.

Digital Health in the COVID Response

Many of the digital health initiatives that JSI led before COVID-19, including the One Health platform we helped to develop in Burkina Faso, have been adapted to support the pandemic response. While initially built to track, prevent, and respond to a range of zoonotic and epizootic disease outbreaks, the platform is now being used to track cases, testing, and contact tracing across the country. In the Kyrgyz Republic, the USAID Cure Tuberculosis Project expanded its previously-developed and widely-used Laboratory Data Management Information System to include a new module on COVID-19 tests along with lab results for tuberculosis.

How Digital Health Can Help Prevent the Next Zoonotic Spillover and Pandemic

Unfortunately, COVID-19 isn’t the only zoonotic-origin virusthere are numerous other pathogens with pandemic-level potential. The STOP Spillover project is working to understand and avert the risks posed by known zoonotic viruses that have the potential to spill over and cause pandemics. This project is a global consortium of wildlife, environment, and human disease experts led by Tufts University. JSI’s role as a project partner is grounded in its experience and expertise in digital health, social and behavior change, measurement, evaluation and learning, and strategic operational support.

As part of this effort, JSI is leading the development of the One Health Information Systems Assessment Tool, which will be a global good designed through public consultation to support the assessment of the people, processes, policies, and information systems involved in a country’s One Health system. This tool will be used to identify potential gaps in the optimal performance of human, animal, and environmental health information systems and within the project to analyze each country’s systems.  

Technology is a cornerstone to achieving resilient health systems, and JSI has been working for nearly 40 years to develop digital solutions that strengthen health systems. JSI looks forward to applying its global expertise in digital health to STOP Spillover as we work with our consortium partners to stop the next pandemic before it begins. 

To learn more about JSI’s digital health work and how digital health can build resiliency, visit

Written by Lauren Azmon, Liz Creel, Steve Ollis

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