Information is power: Improving health information systems to end HIV in South Africa
PEPFAR’s ambitious plan cast a wide net, the efficacy of which would require mending holes in the in-country health information system. In 2008, recognizing the need for improved and standardized methods of data collection and sharing, USAID enlisted JSI to manage the Enhancing Strategic Information (ESI) Project. One objective of the project was to build capacity among PEPFAR implementing partners to collect quality data, report it to a central database, and utilize it for evidence-based program planning.
ESI trainers found that one of the major impediments to effective information management was a communication breakdown between data collectors and program administrators; data collectors did not fully understand the context or objectives for which they were collecting data, and program managers did not know how to synthesize the often incomplete data that was being collected for decision-making. To address this issue, JSI trained data collectors and program managers together to instill a shared understanding of program objectives and to ensure that accurate and appropriate data was being collected. This method of training proved invaluable to the adoption of the new systems and transformed the attitudes of health clinic and program staff members about the value of good data.
The strategic use of monitoring and evaluation and the application of the new skills in synthesizing and utilizing data revolutionized the way many who received the training thought about their work. After the trainings, organizational managers saw how accurate, up-to-date data and sound EBHM could be used for short- and long-term planning to extend HIV and AIDS services to more people that need them.
"I only really understood the power of monitoring and evaluation after taking the M&E and EBHM courses,” said one clinic manager. “The trainings were rigorous, but we didn’t burn out thanks to the passion and leadership of the ESI team. There isn’t a soul in this country that should go without attending those courses.”
The progress ESI has made in HIV and AIDS data quality and use in South Africa has paved the way for improved data quality and EBHM among PEPFAR partners and the National Department of Health. Quality data and EBHM are contributing to more effective HIV and AIDS health policies, which are meaningfully impacting the prevention and treatment strategies available to millions of at-risk and HIV-positive South Africans.
|Related Project: Enhancing Strategic Information Project (2008-2013)|