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March 4, 2016

CHAMPS: the pledge to reduce global childhood mortality

Every day, more than 16,000 children under the age of five die—almost six million children each year. The United Nations and other organizations have pledged to reduce under-five mortality, but the world faces significant gaps in global health surveillance and cause of death determination, especially in developing countries where the mortality rates are highest. These challenges prevent us from truly understanding why young children are dying.

“Ultimately, we are all working toward the same common and urgent mission, and hope technology can help: to uncover and address the causes of child mortality.”

A new program that I’m proud to be a part of, the Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance (CHAMPS) Network, helps address those challenges. CHAMPS uses innovative surveillance and diagnostic techniques to increase the world’s understanding of how, where and why children are getting sick. This understanding will help scientists and public health officials around the world to take action to prevent deaths.

CHAMPS is a long-term program: it will ultimately take place across up to 20 sites with high childhood mortality rates throughout South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. During the first three years, the program will begin in six sites. Meeting such an ambitious timeline takes cross-collaboration between many partners and disciplines. CHAMPS is led by the Emory Global Health Institute and involves several partnering organizations, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the International Association of National Public Health Institutes (IANPHI), Deloitte Consulting LLP and PHII.

PHII is the lead partner responsible for the CHAMPS data network. Our role is to design and build the information technology network needed to support CHAMPS. So how do we ensure the technology will support the goals of CHAMPS?

First, the PHII team is working closely with the science team from CDC, because our technology solutions must meet the needs of science. The science plan gives the structure and guidelines for surveillance. Cause of death will be primarily determined through a post-mortem procedure called minimally invasive tissue sampling (MITS). Assigning a definitive cause of death involves a series of steps to collect, analyze and interpret relevant data.

We also are applying a facilitated collaborative approach to developing requirements for information systems—our Collaborative Requirements Development Methodology (CRDM)™. Through CRDM, we are documenting work processes and defining requirements that outline how information systems should support the CHAMPS initiative. As the program matures, we will extend our collaborative approach to include key stakeholders and users at the sites to better inform our solutions.

Some of PHII's CHAMPS team. From left to right: Sheereen Brown, Dave Ross, J. Patrick Caneer, Vivian Singletary, Jim Jellison. Photo credit: Billy Howard

The technology team is developing specific information system solutions for sites based on their existing infrastructure, technology and workforce capabilities—engaging in new development only when prudent and strategically useful. Our solutions must be practical, adoptable and useful for the sites and supportive of critical CHAMPS operations.

Creating a successful data network requires more than just fancy technology. We are collaborating and engaging the users at sites, applying creativity when exploring solutions, and considering important operational aspects such as data governance, budgets and agreements. Our technology team is working side-by-side with scientists and operational staff at the CHAMPS program office.

As we begin launching the first sites this year, working on the CHAMPS program is similar to working at a start-up company—we all bring varied skill sets in a cross-functional environment. Ultimately, we are all working toward the same common and urgent mission, and hope technology can help: to uncover and address the causes of child mortality.

Jimica Mack Tchamako

Director of the Requirements Lab