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BID Learning Network serves as conduit for exchange and growth among member countries

By Catherine Muyawala, Community Coordinator, BID Learning Network

Dec 8, 2020

Posted in

Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp. BID Learning Network members participate in a learning exchange in 2015.

For the past six years, the BID Learning Network (BLN) has been a conduit of learning, information exchange, and peer support in Sub-Saharan Africa aimed at improving the availability of routine health data collection and use. In 2018, the BLN partnered with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance to work with countries receiving support from Gavi to improve data quality and use through peer learning and interaction, coupled with collective analysis, and the resolution of immunization data challenges. The work was focused on equipping countries with the capacity, plans, and solutions to improve immunization data and service delivery in alignment with Gavi programmatic areas. A critical part of this work included monitoring and documenting the experiences and lessons that emerged from the Collaborative.

There were seven core countries that participated in the BLN/Gavi Data Quality and Use (DQU) Collaborative, including Burkina Faso, Cameroun, Malawi, Mozambique, The Gambia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Of these countries, all but Zimbabwe, developed data quality and improvement plans (DQIP) under the Collaborative; and five countries developed case studies about their experience. Over a period of two years, the BLN tracked progress on country DQIPs and documented lessons learned on data quality and use activities under the Collaborative. DQIPs are based on a set of criteria that includes data accuracy, completeness, consistency, timeliness, and validity. Under the Collaborative, member countries collectively set desired digital health and immunization goals and strategies. Using a combination of two improvement approaches, the performance improvement approach and the plan-do-study-act cycle, the countries learned and assessed their plans as peers.

Dr. Calvin Tonga, Head of Cameroun’s Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) Planning and Monitoring and Evaluation in Cameroun, said of his experience: “I joined the DQU Collaborative with the purpose of learning from peers and sharing our country experience for improving data quality and use. I learned a lot on data quality dimensions, planning for data quality improvement, and how to make small successes toward better data availability and use in a resource-limited context.”

Though Dr. Tonga served as the primary representative for Cameroun, other members of the country’s national data quality working group were invited to join webinars, discussions, and related activities. Cameroun ended up committing nationally to the improvement of data quality and use through a series of district-level data review and validation meetings. Under the Collaborative, Cameroun saw an increase in the number of districts submitting data review reports from 51 to 97 of the country’s 190 districts. Eighty percent of the regional EPI working groups supervised at least one performance review meeting in the past two years. And all 10 regional EPI technical groups submitted at least one data  review report to the Central Technical Groups for EPI.

Through the BLN community, countries like Burkina Faso, Malawi and Mozambique  were exposed to many different data quality and use interventions and gained greatly from the peer learning opportunities, which enabled them to develop focused and achievable goals, fit for their respective country context.

In the words of Mbye Njie, the EPI manager for The Gambia: “The benefits of participating in the DQU Collaborative are enormous, as it has guided us during the development of our DQIP in March [2020]. There are many opportunities as the members are willing to support each other and share experiences.”

Njie noted that many countries are at varying stages in their digital journeys and connecting with other countries provides an opportunity to learn from those who may be further along or more experienced. In The Gambia, Njie helped to replicate the DQU Collaborative approach at a local level to introduce new ideas and expertise within the country. They now have a Data Quality Team (DQT) that involves different stakeholders working together to address data-related immunization challenges. The DQT has visited all programs under the Ministry of Health to explain the importance of quality data for the timely and accurate measurement of vaccination coverage. As a result, the country has seen significant improvements in their immunization program.

The BLN has demonstrated that organizing countries into small manageable collaboratives helps to focus their energy on learning, teaching, and applying solutions and best practices. Additionally, by pairing countries with their peers, the Collaborative allowed for bonding between countries. This led to more honest discussions and assessments as well as a sense of ownership for DQU improvement tools, services, and systems.

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