Improving quality and use of data through data-use workshops: Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania
Jørn Braa, Arthur Heywood & Sundeep Sahay
In Zanzibar, United Republic of Tanzania, as in many developing countries, health managers lack faith in the national Health Management Information System (HMIS). The establishment of parallel data collection systems generates a vicious cycle: national health data are used little because they are of poor quality, and their relative lack of use, in turn, makes their quality remain poor.
An action research approach was applied to strengthen the use of information and improve data quality in Zanzibar. The underlying premise was that encouraging use in small incremental steps could help to break the vicious cycle and improve the HMIS.
To test the hypothesis at the national and district levels a project to strengthen the HMIS was established in Zanzibar. The project included quarterly data-use workshops during which district staff assessed their own routine data and critiqued their colleagues’ data.
The data-use workshops generated inputs that were used by District Health Information Software developers to improve the tool. The HMIS, which initially covered only primary care outpatients and antenatal care, eventually grew to encompass all major health programmes and district and referral hospitals. The workshops directly contributed to improvements in data coverage, data set quality and rationalization, and local use of target indicators.
Data-use workshops with active engagement of data users themselves can improve health information systems overall and enhance staff capacity for information use, presentation and analysis for decision-making.