Empowering Stakeholders to Use Data for Decisionmaking

By guest authors Barb Knittel (JSI) and Ariella Bock (JSI)

Quality data is fundamental for health systems and programs to reach (or maintain) their intended targets. All too often, however, data ends up in bulky technical reports that few people actually read or use. Barriers to use often revolve around a lack of understanding among stakeholders about how data can be applied outside of the report as well as suspicions about the accuracy of any data that contradicts perceived beliefs. In two recent workshops, JSI staff worked to address these issues by engaging with stakeholders to increase their understanding of how data is generated and analyzed, and to build capacity in interpreting data to make useful and informed decisions in their work.

GPRHCSgraphicSince 2012, JSI has partnered with UNFPA/Nigeria to support the national Global Programme for Reproductive Health and Commodity Security (GPRHCS) survey; a national survey program designed to assess universal access to reproductive health commodities and family planning services and information[i]. In August 2015, we conducted a data analysis and interpretation workshop with approximately 35 participants from the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Population Commission of Nigeria, state level programmers, and M&E officers. These stakeholders came together to learn how to generate key indicators and interpret data using tables and graphs from the 2012, 2013, and 2014 survey reports. Participants also learned how to apply this information to actionable work plans, in order to make informed decisions on key activities to strengthen commodity availability.

According to the workshop evaluation, over half of the participants reported having little to no experience with the GPRHCS Survey and more than 75% reported having little to no experience with SPSS, Stata or Excel systems prior to the workshop. After the workshop, 97% of participants reported feeling comfortable with their capacity to analyze and interpret data, including data from the GPRHCS survey. Most participants found the skills they learned very useful and applicable to their positions as leaders in state and national public health initiatives.

In Tanzania, through the MEASURE Evaluation Tanzania Associate Award, the project team, in partnership with the University of Dar es Salaam, are supporting the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOHSW), to develop a comprehensive Health Management Information System/Data Demand and Use training curriculum aimed at building the skills of regional and district staff to effectively use the national DHIS2 (a web based open-source health management information system) to ultimately enhance HMIS data quality and use of information for informed decision-making at the local level. The training materials were piloted with district and regional staff from five districts and are being finalized. Next steps include a final review by the MOHSW and development of national roll-out plan.

Providing stakeholders at all levels of the health system with the opportunity and skills to understand data sources as well as how to analyze and consume these data, allows them to take ownership of state and national health information and use it to advocate for change. These workshops represent an important method of capacity building and stakeholder empowerment, which ultimately strengthens programmatic interventions and health systems through data-driven decision-making.

[i] UNFPA. (2013). The global programme to enhance reproductive health commodity security annual report: 2013. http://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/GPRHCS%20Annual%20Report%202013_web.pdf