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Diving into data use in 2017

By Tara Newton, Senior Communications Associate, BID Initiative

Jan 17, 2017

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Photo: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation/John Healey. A child in Zambia receives an immunization at Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Clinic in Zambia.

As we kick off a new year, we are encouraged by the momentum around data use for decision making in global health. Effective data use among health workers is a strong pillar of the BID Initiative and critical for the success of the tools we are implementing.

The births of nearly one fourth of the global population of children under five have never been registered. Without a formal record, an immunization schedule is not created to ensure the child is protected from some of the world’s most deadly diseases. Through the BID Initiative, we are training health workers and community leaders to register births in a national electronic immunization registry and use the data to identify who needs immunizations, when, and which ones so they also have adequate vaccine stock on hand.

In a recent article titled, Knowledge management crucial for Africa’s growth, the author comments on Africa’s need to “strengthen participants’ capacities in harnessing data, statistics and information, as well as enhancing their abilities in translating data into knowledge,” because collecting the data is just the start. Health workers need to develop the skills to use the data available to them to improve service delivery.

For example, if multiple children from one village are coming to the health facility overdue for vaccines because they do not have an immunization schedule in the national registry, health workers can then go to the village and train the leaders on how to register the births via SMS and in turn generate an immunization schedule. If health workers use the data available to see that a child missed a scheduled vaccine, they can make a follow up call to the caregiver.

We heard the term “data revolution” a lot last year and are now starting to see efforts for better data collection, quality, and use in action. At PATH, the MACEPA team partnered with Tableau on a new tool in the fight against malaria in Zambia that strengthens visualization and insights drawn from real-time data direct from communities. “A key intervention for us is the data,” says Jeff Bernson, director of Results Management, Measurement, and Learning at PATH.  “To identify and treat every last case of malaria we must be able to see accurate, reliable data that tracks emerging transmission patterns. Then we can target communities and catchment areas where the parasite is hiding.”

The United Nations is currently hosting its first-ever World Data Forum. The event brings data and statistic experts together from around the world to explore innovative ways to apply data and statistics to measure global progress and form evidence-based policy decisions on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

We are looking forward to seeing the initiatives and solutions that come out of the forum that will deliver better data and build off of the momentum around data use as we expand the BID Initiative.

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