Barriers to Use of Health Data in Low- and Middle-Income Countries — A Review of the Literature

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Year: 2018

Barriers to Use of Health Data in Low- and Middle-Income Countries — A Review of the Literature Abstract:

Health information is one of the essential functions of a strong health system. Global commitments to improving health systems and outcomes have led to improved monitoring and evaluation (M&E) and health management information systems (HMIS). HMIS produce data about health service provision and population health status to be used for decision making and program planning at all levels of the health system. Quality and timely data from a health information system should be used to guide decision making across all the other health system functions (service delivery, health workforce, access to essential medicines, financing, leadership, and governance). These decision-making processes include priority setting, annual health planning and budgeting, health resource allocation and utilization, and introducing and improving service delivery and policymaking to promote greater utilization of health services and improve health outcomes. Data-informed decision making contributes to a culture of transparency and accountability, as available information is used to ensure that resources such as workforce, finances, and commodities are being used effectively and appropriately.

Despite improvements in technological solutions facilitating the collection of data and improving data analytics and visualization, actual use of data remains limited in many settings, especially at lower levels such as the district or community. Data-informed decision making entails that potential courses of action are given full and unbiased consideration and the option most likely to be successful is chosen, based on a full assessment of relevant, available data that meet quality criteria. However, decision making is complex and influenced by several factors such that data are not always the basis for decisions. There are multiple facilitators that strongly influence the ability of individuals and organizations to use data effectively, as well as barriers that prevent this from happening. Despite the global recognition for the need to strengthen data-informed decision making, little is known on how to best accomplish this goal. We conducted a literature review to examine the barriers to data use and have highlighted interventions that sought to overcome those barriers.

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