June 2017 Monthly Meeting Notes - Data Partnerships


Kicking off the meeting was Henry Mwanyika from PATH's Better Immunization Data (BID) Initative Tanzania who started with an overview of the data use partnership (DUP) theory of change, which was developed by PATH and Vital Wave to accelerate data use by looking at data use cycles in the context of eHealth building blocks. This has helped to illustrate the theory of data use and is being used in the context of a 10 year cycle to improve health outcomes.  In Tanzania, PATH specifically supported the government to create an digital health investment roadmap.  The roadmap, which is led by the government, identifies digital priorities and creates three “investment buckets: foundational, high impact and quick wins.  This roadmap has been hailed as the “gold standard” in national digital health investment plans and the success of the approach has been widely shared.  Key to the success has been the leadership at the government level, trust from all parties engaged, strong coordination and communication.  PATH has also worked with the government to bolster champions at the national, regional and district level.  Transitioning people from implementer to convenors has strengthened local capacity to carry forward the digital health roadmap.  During the discussion, Henry said the roadmap was creating taking into consideration existing strategies and policies, noting over 200 documents were review to ensure harmonization. As this work continues, Tanzania is seeing traction with the roadmap in part because of the buy-in from so many levels.

Hannah Cooper from Cooper/Smith presented in their work in Malawi, highlighting the Kuunika: Data for Action project. The project has 9 overarching HIV related goals anchored on three pillars: 1)linking fragmented health information systems; 2) facilitating routine data use, incentivize stakeholders to use data; and 3) strengthen health data governance. In Malawi, like in many countries, Hannah said there are a “bonanza of systems”, many with quality data but  hard to use as data are in so many different places. They aimed to focus where they could help the country realize improved health benefits. One of the activities has been to conduct a data use study to: 1) Systematically document, relate and validate assumptions about key data elements, users and systems that manage the HIV response in Malawi and 2) Identify critical decisions encountered by decision makers and the information used or needed to improve program effectiveness. They applied the results from the study to the 9 program goals of Kuunika. Their findings and some interactive visualizations that were shown during the meeting can also be found on their website. Hannah also presented on a discrete choice experiment study that looks at incentives in data use. Their hypothesis of this study is that better alignment of data use training incentives will lead to increased data use. Some preliminary findings were discussed and the final report will be shared with the Network in the coming months. Cooper/Smith will be researching different approaches and incorporating their learning to ensure training on data use is a routine part of business. After Hannah’s presentation, the participants had a lively discussion about linking users to results hoping that by engaging users more how data is used, data availability, data quality and data use will increase.  

Finally, Brooke Partridge and Derek Treatman from Vital Wave discussed their DUP work in Ethiopia, which centered around the launch of foundational information systems to accelerate implementation of the national strategy to create a culture of data use, the Ethiopian “Information Revolution”.  When Vital Wave started their work, the government indicated they had been “assessed to death” thus Vital Wave jumped straight into implementation. Brooke and Derek highlighted 3 eHealth building blocks used to accelerate their work in Ethiopia - existing government buy-in to create and invest in a national strategy for data use, a focus on international standards and interoperability, and strong leadership and governance structures at the senior government level. High-level governmental buy-in was a huge success factor enabling Vital Wave to quickly build and launch two foundational building blocks for Ethiopia’s national digital health architecture, a facility registry and a health data dictionary. The master facility registry compiled over 28,000 facility records from disparate, disconnected systems to create open access to health facility information that the government and even the public can access for planning purposes and to report updates or discrepancies to improve data quality.  The web-based National Health Data Dictionary allows health definitions in Ethiopia to be published online, mapped to international standards, and made available via an API to improve accuracy of health data reports. Diving into the governance piece, all of the various committees and working groups related to the “Information Revolution” had clear terms of reference and leadership, bolstering their impact even through staff turnover in the Ministry of Health.  

Following the presentations, participants continued the discussion, diving into private sector engagement into this work, investments needed into data science and cross-sectoral and multi-country data. To hear the discussion, the recording will be available on the Network website in the coming days.