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From noise to knowledge: BID Initiative releases white paper about creating a culture of data use

By Emily Carnahan, Monitoring and Evaluation Lead, BID Initiative

Oct 26, 2017

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Photo: PATH/Trevor Snapp. Paulo Urioh, a health worker at Mareu Health Center, scans child health cards.

What is a data use culture? Why is it important? And how can it be strengthened? These are some of the questions addressed in PATH’s newly released white paper on Defining and Building a Data Use Culture.

Over the past decade, the use of information and communication technology (ICT) to improve health outcomes has multiplied in the global health sector. One of the primary benefits of ICTs is the improved ability to collect, analyze, and use data. But to do this well and sustainably requires fostering a data use culture.

A data use culture describes the customs, dispositions, and behaviors of a particular group or organization to support and encourage the use of evidence to inform their decision-making. If decision-makers at all levels of the health system use timely, high-quality data to drive planning, performance management, and the delivery of services, we can accelerate health gains and optimize health system efficiency.

This white paper outlines how to strengthen a culture of data use through two complementary frameworks: 1) a theory of change that explains what has to happen to accelerate data use within a health system, and 2) a behavior change framework that explains why individuals and their organizations enact critical data use responsibilities (see Table 1). The white paper examines these interrelated factors through two real-life case studies of implementing the BID Initiative and the Data Use Partnership in Tanzania.

Table 1. Data use culture: What and why

Whether you’re a policymaker, health care worker, funder, or organizational leader, if you believe in the importance of data-driven decision-making, the white paper describes actionable steps you can take to build a culture of data use in your own work:

  • Identify champions who can inspire and mobilize others to use data for decision-making.
  • Engage users in developing data use products, policies, and practices.
  • Build data use skills that are tool agnostic, starting with the importance of data use.
  • Integrate data use in policies and practices in order to empower health care workers at all levels.
  • Link systems by planning for interoperability from the outset and using open standards to increase data accessibility and usability.
  • Be patient and prioritize, recognizing that changing the culture of an organization takes time and prioritization of resources.

For the BID Initiative, building a data use culture means that health workers are now able to track children who haven’t completed their vaccination schedule. They know each child’s name and their caregivers’ phone numbers in case of an outbreak. They are able to quickly mobilize stock because they know what stock is in which facility, at any given time. As we continue to mobilize individuals at all levels of the health system, we expect that health workers will consistently use the data they have to make better decisions about how best to deliver services.


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