Global Symposium Highlights Need to Link Health Decision Making to Data

MEASURE Evaluation, the Health Metrics Network, and the East, Central and Southern African Health Community co-organized a global symposium for professionals to exchange successful experiences in improving health programs and policies through the use of quality health data and information.

 

Arusha Conference photo

(c) Photos courtesy of Nicole Judice, MEASURE Evaluation

One hundred and forty-six people from 24 countries came together in Arusha, Tanzania with an interest in strengthening the links between data and decision making.

MEASURE Evaluation, the Health Metrics Network, and the East, Central and Southern African Health Community co-organized From Data to Impact: Using Health Data for Results global symposium January 28-29, 2009 so that professionals could exchange successful experiences in improving health programs and policies through the use of quality health data and information.

Attendees shared experiences highlighting the factors that facilitate the use of data in decision-making, common challenges to data use, and key priorities for creating a culture of evidence-based decision making.

Tara Nutley, one of the co-organizers of the event from MEASURE Evaluation, said, “When we first conceptualized the symposium, we envisioned approximately 50 participants. The fact that 146 people attended is testimony to the high interest in this topic and the need to share best practices and approaches to facilitate evidence-based decision-making.” 

Through a series of presentations and discussions, the symposium highlighted case studies of data use and actual tools and processes used to improve policies, planning and programs based on evidence.  The symposium underscored an urgent need to routinely bring program managers, clinicians and monitoring and evaluation professionals together to discuss approaches to improve the availability and use of quality data to improve health programs. The meeting illuminated the importance of first identifying the most pressing health decisions that service delivery programs face as they work to better meet the needs of the populations they serve. By identifying priorities and harmonizing existing parallel information systems the most relevant data and information can be brought to bear on decision-making.

One participant noted, “…I must say that I didn't come back to my centre the same. My ideology and commitment level changed to embrace M&E at all levels of the organization and project cycle.”  Another participant from a national government’s Ministry of Health immediately approached MEASURE Evaluation for assistance and advice in analyzing, interpreting, and using data from national outcome evaluations that will be available for his country in early 2009. He noted the importance of providing decision makers with targeted information upon which they can base policy and planning decisions.

After the event Dr. Christoph Bunge, one of the co-sponsors from HMN, said, “It was very good to see the increasing demand for HMN tools and guidance throughout the participant countries. We are expecting a high demand in the near future."

To find the conference agenda, roundtable notes and presentations, go to http://www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/networks/datausenet and click on Symposium Materials.

The Data Use Network has been created to further the discussion in data use to improve programs and policies. To learn more and find information on how to join, visit http://www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/networks/datausenet.

Learn more about data demand and information use at http://www.cpc.unc.edu/measure/our-work/data-demand-and-use.