Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Costs and results of information systems for health and poverty indicators in the United Republic of Tanzania

Vanessa Rommelmann, Philip W. Setel, Yusuf Hemed, Gustavo Angeles, Hamisi Mponezya, David Whiting, & Ties Boerma

ABSTRACT

OBJECTIVE

To examine the costs of complementary information generation activities in a resource-constrained setting and compare the costs and outputs of information subsystems that generate the statistics on poverty, health and survival required for monitoring, evaluation and reporting on health programmes in the United Republic of Tanzania.

METHODS

Nine systems used by four government agencies or ministries were assessed. Costs were calculated from budgets and expenditure data made available by information system managers. System coverage, quality assurance and information production were reviewed using questionnaires and interviews. Information production was characterized in terms of 38 key sociodemographic indicators required for national programme monitoring.

FINDINGS

In 2002–03 approximately US$ 0.53 was spent per Tanzanian citizen on the nine information subsystems that generated information on 37 of the 38 selected indicators. The census and reporting system for routine health service statistics had the largest participating populations and highest total costs. Nationally representative household surveys and demographic surveillance systems (which are not based on nationally representative samples) produced more than half the indicators and used the most rigorous quality assurance. Five systems produced fewer than 13 indicators and had comparatively high costs per participant.

CONCLUSION

Policy-makers and programme planners should be aware of the many trade-offs with respect to system costs, coverage, production, representativeness and quality control when making investment choices for monitoring and evaluation. In future, formal cost-effectiveness studies of complementary information systems would help guide investments in the monitoring, evaluation and planning needed to demonstrate the impact of poverty-reduction and health programmes.

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