Reliable data on health is an essential part of a comprehensive health information system, which is central to evidence-informed, responsive decision-making for better public health program.
A well-functioning health information system also helps policy-makers and program managers to monitor population health and plan interventions accordingly.
In line with the vision of a Digital Bangladesh, one of the more significant changes that have happened in our health sector is transforming paper-based health reporting into an electronic health information system, along with initiating a medical record system through the Open MRS software.
Both initiatives are in effect at government-run health facilities under the supervision of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in collaboration with various development partners such as the EU iccdr,b, UNICEF, among others.
A multi-structured health system consists of the public and private sector, and non-profit; NGO-run health facilities are often a barrier to getting reliable data on the health of the population. Data quality issue, duplication, and redundancy of data are also areas of concern.
That’s why DGHS has established a national data warehouse, where electronic data from various health service providers and health programs can be better coordinated.
Here, District Health Information System (DHIS2) software is being used to collect and analyse aggregate data from government-run health facilities. The open MRS system is being piloted in several health facilities to systematically organise individual patients’ records under hospital automation process.
This unique IT-based health information system is strengthening the flow of information among service providers from the tertiary level up to the community level, and it has also paved the way for shared responsibility being taken up in improving public health-care facilities and, eventually, health outcomes.
We must design our health programs based on accurate health information. It is our shared responsibility to do more research on health
With support from various development partners, DGHS is conducting capacity-building training on DHIS2 use for health managers, IT-focused individuals, and statisticians in all divisions.
This helps them increase skills on data analysis, interpretation, and creating dashboards in DHIS2 with charts, pivot tables, and GIS maps, resulting in enhancing data and informed decisions at the local level.
DGHS has also arranged capacity-strengthening initiatives through on-job coaching, supervision, and monitoring for sub-district level health managers, statisticians, and service-providers who are involved in data collection, compilation, and analysis.
This progress has created an extraordinary opportunity for Bangladesh to generate flawless health data from different tiers of health-care facilities.
This significant progress has inspired DGHS to host an international conference on Data for Decision in Health from April 1 to April 3 at Le Meridian Hotel. The EU, icddr,b, UNICEF, USAID, UNFPA, and several development partners are working with DGHS to organise this international conference, which will also be a follow-up event to “Measurement and Accountability for Health (MA4H) conference” organised by DGHS last year.
The conference will bring together development experts, development partners, leaders from the private sector, the civil society, the media, relevant stake-holders from Bangladesh and its neighbouring countries, and other developing countries with an overview of global and regional progress to date in strengthening health management information system.
Bangladesh has several important landmarks in attaining the MDGs, especially in reducing maternal and child mortality. Professor Abul Kalam Azad, Director General of DGHS, is leading the digitisation of the health information system with the application of software and E-health solutions in Bangladesh, which we believe, will contribute in monitoring health related SDGs.
A great deal of work still needs to be done. We must design our health programs based on accurate health information. It is our shared responsibility to do more research on health, implement more evidence-informed programs, and incorporate innovative and best practices in our policies.
Nazimun Nessa is Director, MIS, and Line Director (HIS and e-health) at Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).