Promoting the use of data for decision making is all the rage across development sectors, particularly in health. While advocating for increased use of strategic information has great value in itself, it’s important to assess the quality of the routine data available: what value do you get from using information that’s of poor quality?
Since 2012, a team from MEASURE Evaluation has collaborated with a team from the Botswana Ministry of Health to customize a global routine data quality assessment tool for the country context, develop related standard operating procedures for improving data quality, and train local staff in how to use the tools and procedures to improve the quality of routine health information. Two trainings have been held to date, the first facilitated by trainers from MEASURE Evaluation and the second led by two trainees from the first session.
The success of the development and deployment of national standard operating procedures and tools have relied on strong country ownership. When asked about what happened after the initial trainings, the Chief Health Officer of Monitoring & Evaluation for the Government of Botswana indicated that the District M&E Officers were conducting assessments and presenting their results to the heads of the district health management teams so they could use the information for planning.
At the national level, they held an M&E forum in August 2013 where M&E Officers presented the findings from their data quality assessments, including their action plans. He said it was very insightful to see the differences across the districts and the MoH intends to hold this forum annually. In addition, they’re in the process of developing a National Health M&E Plan for the Ministry and intend to formalize RDQAs as a routine activity for districts.
The technical advisors from MEASURE Evaluation saw the change that had happened at the local level on a follow-on trip to Botswana in 2013: when visiting a district for a completely different project, they saw the tools and approaches in action. As one of the technical advisors recounted:
“The District M&E Officer recognized us from the April 2013 workshop and showed us a log she had started to use to track the timeliness, completeness, and availability of monthly reports from health facilities, based on the training she received. She had her participant’s manual and SOPs easily accessible for her use. This was the first time for us to see someone use the knowledge and skills they learned in a training. It was very gratifying and exciting!”
Based on the success of this activity, the mission in Botswana asked the team to conduct a similar activity to assess the quality of PEPFAR data collected and reported by implementing partners. In addition, the team is working with the Government of Mozambique on a new local adaptation of the tools and materials.
With these local tools, in the hands of capable local staff, Ministries can support the collection and aggregation of high quality data, making it all the more valuable when used to make decisions about programs, policies, or budgets.
The technical team has a poster at the Consortium of Universities in Global Health (CUGH) Conference, May 10-12, highlighting this process and these results in more detail.