Tools for Data Demand and Use in the Health Sector
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Significant human and financial resources have been invested worldwide in the improvement of health information systems. At the global level, efforts to improve monitoring and evaluation systems and other data sources have increased in response to the need to track Millennium Development Goals and respond to the performance-based release of funds from select donors. Despite these improvements, data demand and information use (DDU or DDIU) is often not used by key stakeholders to effectively inform policy and programmatic decision making. As a result, many health systems fail to fully link evidence to decisions and suffer from a decreased ability to respond to priority needs at all levels of the health system.
There are many possible factors that undermine evidence-based decision making. Some factors can be traced to limited demand for information, stemming from a pervasive lack of “data ownership” where decision makers are not aware of existing data sources or do not fully understand the underlying methodology or scope of the data set. Others relate to the low value placed on data by decision makers because of a perception that the quality of the data is poor or the decision maker lacks the understanding of how the information could be useful. The failure to present data to decision makers in user-friendly, accessible formats also affects the ease of using it in the decision-making process. The factors that mitigate evidence-based decision making are many and relate to the varied types of decision makers, how information flows to these individuals and how they make their decisions; others to the context in which information is collected; and still others to the organizational infrastructure and technical capacity of those that generate and use the data.