Reliable data on the health status of individuals and communities, and on how services are delivered, is essential for planning, operating, monitoring and evaluating health programs in every country. Data is needed on individual health, health facility performance, population health and community health surveillance.
Too often, good decisionmaking and reporting are hampered by poor data quality and gaps in health information systems. In recent years, information technology has offered ways to aggregate health data, including data on services provided, staffing and equipment at health facilities. New information solutions also enable us to better track disease outbreaks, patient records, survey results, and population estimates and trends. A rapidly increasing number of countries and organizations are deploying new health information systems, such as District Health Information System 2 (DHIS 2) software. The challenge is to introduce, advocate for and help health authorities in poor countries utilize such health information technology and systems.
In the northern Ethiopian county of Gondar, International Medical Corps conducted a research study to determine health, nutrition and social needs of urban adolescents. The goals were to determine sexual and reproductive health (SRH) needs, and needs surrounding general health and well-being, nutrition and income generation. The findings found six specific issues affecting the community’s youth, including a lack of recreational space that drove youth to engage in risky behavior in risky locations; an unwelcoming environment at the local health center that caused young people to avoid the facility; and poor communications between adolescents and their parents. The study suggested multi-sector strategies implemented through the local youth center and health center, and via community outreach.
We supported training of government staff on the use of smartphones to collect and transmit data on the progress of our polio project in northern Nigeria.
In rural parts of countries, including Ethiopia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, we have improved data collection and analysis on disease surveillance at the community level.
In countries where the government has DHIS 2 software, International Medical Corps trains and helps Ministry of Health staff utilize this system for health data management.