Blog: Countries to Strengthen Health Data collection, analysis and use in support of resilient health systems

Originally posted on WHO Africa on September 25, 2019

Kampala, 25 September 2019: It is a public health fact that routine data from health facilities expedites patient management, service utilization and treatment coverage. Data also facilitates planning and management of health services, monitoring performance on primary health care as well as health systems strengthening for Universal Health Coverage.

Yet despite this widely acknowledged contribution, many countries face challenges in health facility data systems such as poor data quality, siloed data systems, reporting burden on frontline workers, limited capacity for analysis and use at national and sub-national levels. These challenges are, despite the heavy investments made by countries, still faced in facility data systems.

“Fragmented data management systems used by disease programmes such as HIV, tuberculosis, immunization and epidemic disease surveillance are often disconnected from a comprehensive national facility data system and may operate in isolation,” said Dr Yonas Tegegn Woldermariam in a speech read for him at the on-going three-day workshop on data, in Kampala.

“Luckily, the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with other organizations has attempted to address these challenges through the development of integrated, innovative approaches to strengthen health facility data quality, analysis, use and access,” he added.

These approaches include common data standards, cloud-based digital platform and visual analytics, real-time data access and an integrated approach involving multiple partners.

The Kampala meeting takes place at a time when WHO member-states of the African region are implementing the WHO Thirteenth General Program of Work which aims to reach Triple billion people with public health services.

“This requires member-states to restructure their health systems so that they are more resilient and better prepared to address current health challenges and gain from improving the health of their populations,” said Dr Tegegn. “One of the important elements for the success of these aspirations is the collection, analysis, management and use of routine health facility data, in order to better facilitate decision-making and action on health issues,” he noted.

But for this to happen it is essential to have an integrated approach involving key health partners aligning their financial and technical resources in support of the Ministry of Health strategy. As Dr Tegegn pointed out, “implementation of this approach will contribute to making health systems more robust in countries”.

The Director-General of Health Services at the Ministry of Health Uganda, represented by the Acting Assistant Commissioner- Division of Health Information at the Ministry of Health, Mr Paul Mbaka, highlighted the need to use data to optimize the deployment of interventions in the health sector.

“With the prevailing challenges, it is important to use data because it is instrumental in highlighting patterns and trends,” he said.

Already, a number of countries in the African Region that have adopted this approach and have reaped good results. Indeed this success is the basis of the on-going WHO supported workshop aimed at building the capacity of participants in an integrated approach to strengthening health facility data.

At the end of the workshop, it is hoped that the participants from Botswana, Eritrea, Eswatini, Namibia, Nigeria and Uganda will have acquired knowledge and skills on harmonized approaches, standards and tools for strengthening the analysis and use of routine facility-based data.

They will also prioritize key actions required to strengthen the management of HIV, TB, Malaria, Immunization and Reproductive Health data through harmonized nationally-owned facility-based information systems.