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A Smarter Way to Build Health Information Systems?

by on October 21, 2016
© 2010 Sally Zweimueller, Courtesy of Photoshare

© 2010 Sally Zweimueller, Courtesy of Photoshare

The 25 health indicators in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created with the hope that the global health advances of the last few decades will continue. For example, the mortality rate of children under five years of age in developing countries fell from 22 percent in 1960 to less than 5 percent in 2013. Ensuring that we mark and retain those gains, and monitor new ones along with all of the SDG indicators, depends on a system that traffics in data rather than vaccines and medicines—it depends on a country’s health information system (HIS).

An HIS consists of data on deaths, illnesses, patient visits, services delivered, facilities, personnel, and medical supplies in stock. That’s a tall order for many low- and middle-income countries. And, there is no road map to get there—countries have only pictures of fully formed health information systems to guide them, not staged development steps toward a strong HIS. A lot is riding on how they move forward, who helps them do what, and the resources available to do it at all. In our article, published in the November 2016 issue of Health Policy and Planning— “What systems are essential to achieving the sustainable development goals and what will it take to marshal them?”—we encourage countries to stay the course with their ongoing HIS strengthening efforts. But some countries may need help in knowing where to start with HIS strengthening, or what to do next.

Read the full post by Jim Thomas, director of MEASURE Evaluation.

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