A reproducible picture of open access health facility data in Africa and R tools to support improvement
Background: Open data on the locations and services provided by health facilities have, in some countries, allowed the development of software tools contributing to COVID-19 response. The UN and WHO encourage countries to make health facility location data open, to encourage use and improvement. We provide a summary of open access health facility location data in Africa using re-useable R code. We aim to support data analysts developing software tools to address COVID-19 response in individual countries. In Africa there are currently three main sources of such open data; 1) direct from national ministries of health, 2) a database for sub-Saharan Africa collated and published by a team from KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme and now hosted by WHO, and 3) The Global Healthsites Mapping Project in collaboration with OpenStreetMap. Methods: We searched for and documented official national facility location data that were openly available. We developed re-useable open-source R code to summarise and visualise facility location data by country from the three sources. This re-useable code is used to provide a web user interface allowing data exploration through maps and plots of facility type. Results: Out of 52 African countries, seven currently provide an official open facility list that can be downloaded and analysed reproducibly. Considering all three sources, there are over 185,000 health facility locations available for Africa. However, there are differences and overlaps between sources and a lack of data on capacities and service provision. Conclusions: These summaries and software tools can be used to encourage greater use of existing health facility location data, incentivise further improvements in the provision of those data by national suppliers, and encourage collaboration within wider data communities. The tools are a part of the afrimapr project, actively developing R building blocks to facilitate the use of health data in Africa.