Innovative data spurs healthcare delivery in Africa

A health worker injects a baby with a vaccination
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  • Four African countries are using innovative data to improve primary healthcare
  • Data is being used to aid medicine supply and quality healthcare delivery
  • Expert hopes their success could be useful lesson for other countries

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[ACCRA] Application of innovative data is helping four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to improve primary healthcare delivery, a new report has revealed.

According to the WHO, primary healthcare involves empowering people at communities at the grassroots to tackle health challenges, and is critical to achieving health-related Sustainable Development Goals.

The report on Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Argentina in Latin America shows that these countries prioritise data collection, analysis, dissemination and use to strengthen primary healthcare.

“There is a lot of fragmentation in health information systems in most countries and ensuring that individual innovations are integrated into larger systems is critical to bring them to scale and sustain them,” says Allyson English, lead author of the report and senior programme associate at Research for Development.

“There is a lot of fragmentation in health information systems in most countries and ensuring that individual innovations are integrated into larger systems is critical.”

Allyson English, Research for Development.

Laurel Hatt, a co-author of the report and programme director at Research for Development, adds, “Interconnected data systems provide a comprehensive view of health system performance and can help ensure that care is available when and where patients need it.”

The report which was launched by the Primary Health Care Performance Initiative at a panel event at in the United States this month (12 December) shows that using local, regional, and national-level data for priority setting can ensure that policies are sustainable and scalable while remaining relevant at the community level.

According to the report, a data system in Rwanda allows individuals to use mobile phones to receive care from a network of nurses and physicians.

Senegal is using real-time data to manage supplies of modern contraceptives among married women. The distribution of the medicines is done through an online platform which tracks consumption trends and forecast future health needs.

“By improving the way drugs and supplies move through the health system and strengthening monitoring capacity, Senegal has been able to increase access to and availability of effective primary health care services and strengthen facility organisation and management,” the report explains.
Tanzania’s primary health facility accreditation programme uses a five-star rating system, with accreditation awarded to facilities that receive three or more stars. Once evaluated, facilities are eligible for targeted interventions such as mentoring and supportive supervision to bolster quality care and strengthen service delivery.

The report describes how collection and use of data helped Ghana to identify weaknesses and solutions to overcome challenges to implementing the country’s community-Based Health Planning and Services (CHPS) programme, which began in 2000 with only three communities in a district but now covers more than 4,500 communities across 216 districts.
“The remarkable success of CHPS in Ghana is a result of evidence-based planning throughout the past two decades,” says the report.

But Evelyn Osei, a community health professional at Oboadaka Community Health Centre in Ghana’s Eastern region, says that despite the success, community health centres face challenges in addressing the needs of clients.

Osei is calling for mobile technology interventions that can help community health centres to receive guidance from doctors during emergency situations.

Beth Tritter, the executive director of Primary Health Care Performance Initiative Founded in 2015, tells SciDev.Net that she hopes that these case studies can serve as a guidepost for countries that are looking for ways to innovate on data collection, analysis and use in pursuing high-quality primary healthcare for all.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.


Allyson English and others Measuring what matters: Case studies on data innovations for strengthening (Primary Health Care Performance Initiative, December 2018)