There was celebration as the Center for Epidemiological Modelling and Analysis (CEMA) was finally launched at the University of Nairobi. CEMA is a multi-disciplinary national data center that supports the control, elimination and eradication of infectious diseases in Eastern and Central Africa. Established in 2020, CEMA which is hosted at the University of Nairobi seeks to enhance data-driven decision making to improve health in Kenya and in Africa.
Dr. Patrick Amoth, the acting Director General for Health in the Ministry of Health presided over the launch of the Center. He acknowledged the significant role played by CEMA to inform decision making in public health using locally generated data. He added that there was need to stick to science to overcome the pandemic and cited the need for accurate and focused health data to inform policy interventions.
Prof. George Magoha, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Education, highlighted the importance of data and to the significance of CEMA in informing policy. The CS acknowledged that data is power and knowledge useful in managing a health emergency such as COVID-19, and in making rapid and meaningful decisions. He added that a multidisciplinary approach must be employed to tackle the pandemic supported by local relevant data generated locally by scientists.
The Chief Administrative Secretary, Ministry of ICT and Youth Affairs, Ms. Maureen Mbaka appreciated the pivotal role of CEMA in harnessing and analyzing data that has informed policy decisions to manage the COVID-19 pandemic.
The University of Nairobi’s Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Stephen Kiama, emphasized the importance of data analytics in decision-making. He noted that CEMA will use data-driven approaches for the control of infectious diseases, and improvement of health in Kenya and the African continent.
The VC said that data analytics helps decision- makers to predict the future with more accuracy and more importantly, that it provides organizations with creative solutions to business problems without errors of human Interventions.
Dr. Loice Ombajo on her experiences, said that staying ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic means having real time data to make decisions of dealing with the pandemic. Dr. Ombajo is the CEMA co-founder, a senior lecturer at the University of Nairobi and the Head of the Infectious Disease Unit at the Kenyatta National Hospital.
Through CEMA, both the government and the public can now deeply investigate outbreaks or demographic data that will influence the most precise decision-making. Thanks to this partnership, Kenya is leading open-data accessibility in healthcare in Africa.
The center will also offer training through short courses for health workers and post-graduate fellows that will increase a better understanding of how to translate data perceptions into policies that improve public health.