Medical Research Council
World Health Organization
Health Systems Trust
2011-2012 Education Sector HIV and AIDS: Global Progress Survey- Progression, Regression or Stagnation?UNAIDS
Improving data use in decision making: An intervention to strengthen health systems
Health systems strengthening has become a top priority of many global and national health agendas as a way to improve health outcomes. With the global health context becoming increasingly complex, national health systems are beginning to move away from a focus on disease-specific health responses to comprehensive strengthening of health systems. The global community agrees that without a systems approach, population health outcomes will not further improve and health related development goals such as the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 will not be met.
The World Health Organization (WHO)’s framework for health systems strengthening identifies six attributes of a health system. The attributes, or building blocks, include a health workforce; health services; health financing; governance and leadership; medical products, vaccines, and technologies; and health information. While each building block of the WHO framework is important to improving health systems and ultimately health outcomes, quality and timely data from health information systems are the foundation of the health system and inform decision making in each of the other five building blocks of the health system. For example, for a workforce to be trained and deployed in adequate numbers to deliver quality services, information about disease burden, the geographic distribution of target groups, and available infrastructure and commodities is necessary. Health systems require quality data from health information systems to plan for and ensure that the workforce is fully funded and equipped with the necessary commodities, infrastructure, resources, and policies to deliver services. Health data are, in and of themselves, prerequisites to improving each of the other five building blocks.
This paper will discuss the unique role of health data in strengthening the other five building blocks of health systems; define specific interventions to strengthen the use of data in decision making; and provide a framework for developing, monitoring, and evaluating interventions to improve the use of and demand for data. The overall aim of the paper is to articulate specific interventions that can improve the demand for and use of data in decision making so that improvements in the other health building blocks can be realized.