Strengthening Health Information Systems in Ethiopia: A Journey of Innovation and Collaboration

June 3rd, 2024 | story


Health worker Amina Tariku examines a patient at the Abinet Health Center in Lideta Subcity, Addis Ababa.

By Wubshet Denboba, Ethiopia Data Use Partnership Project Director

“What makes this initiative unique is not just its achievements, but also the methods of its interventions,” said a participant from Hawassa University during the closeout event for the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (DDCF)-funded Capacity Building and Mentorship Program (CBMP) on March 28. This sentiment, echoed through the audience, encapsulated the efforts of the Ethiopia Data Use Partnership (DUP)—a JSI-led project supporting the implementation of the country’s Information Revolution (IR) agenda. Over the past five years, our work has been nothing short of transformative.

In 2019, the DUP began working with DDCF to strengthen Ethiopia’s health information system (HIS) by improving availability and use of high-quality data for decision making through the CBMP. This endeavor convened the ministry of health (MOH), regional health bureaus, and local universities to support 11 districts and 53 health facilities across the country.

People with HIS skills are critical to advancing health care. A hallmark of CBMP was its focus on cultivating local capacity to plan and execute HIS initiatives autonomously, while also supporting implementation. We provided HIS in-service training to more than 4,164 health professionals and implemented various initiatives in health facilities, more than 80 percent of which became model sites. These facilities integrated digital health tools, generated high-quality data, cultivated a culture of data-driven decision-making, and established effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.

Health worker Zegenework Sileshi registers a patient at the Dilchora Referral Hospital in Dire Dawa

Health worker Zegenework Sileshi registers a patient at the Dilchora Referral Hospital in Dire Dawa

Another standout feature of the initiative was the inclusion and engagement of local higher academic institutions. We built the capacity of six CBMP universities to support HIS performance in their regions independently and sustainably. We revised and harmonized curricula for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in health information technology and health data science across the universities, aligning them with global advancements and Ethiopia’s HIS aspirations. We also supported several masters and PhD students in their HIS research, which will contribute to learning in Ethiopia and the greater global body of evidence. These efforts transformed universities into training hubs that showcase nationally implemented health information technologies. For example, the University of Gondar emerged as a center of excellence for DHIS2, while Jimma University excelled as a center for the electronic community health information system.

Our extensive support helped universities evolve into reliable and capable HIS partners, ensuring the continuity of interventions and their outcomes. The University of Gondar’s achievement in securing a grant from the Gates Foundation to further our work exemplifies this success. Additionally, our collaboration strengthened the connection between academia and the health sector, resulting in the creation of the IT Internship Program that deployed 169 interns across Ethiopia.

Reflecting on our journey gives me a profound sense of confidence and fulfillment. We met our objectives and illuminated a path to sustainable program outcomes by fostering local partnerships and ownership. It is essential to emphasize the importance of building local capacity alongside project completion; local people are the true owners and drivers of any initiative. Our role, as implementing partners, is to support rather than lead the IR, with capacitated locals to advance and expand the work started.

Learn more about DDCF-supported activities.

Partner with Us

We strive to build lasting relationships to produce better health outcomes for all.