U.S. Support Strengthens Zim’s Health Information Systems

Health minister Dr. Parirenyatwa and Ambassador Wharton and other health ministry officials
Health minister Dr. Parirenyatwa and Ambassador Wharton and other health ministry officials

The United States and its partners are providing support to the strengthening of Zimbabwe’s health ministry internal and public information systems to facilitate timely reporting of disease outbreaks, health program data and disease surveillance.

“The United States Government is committed to collaborating with the Government of Zimbabwe to strengthen data collection and research capacities in Zimbabwe in order to provide data for evidence-based decision making,” said Ambassador Bruce Wharton during an unveiling ceremony held in Harare on Thursday. “Timely availability, analysis, and use of health information are essential to developing and implementing effective health interventions and improving the health of the people. Running health programs without consistent, accurate, and timely reporting of disease outbreaks, health program data, and disease surveillance information is like driving at night without headlights – not very effective, at best, and potentially quite dangerous, at worst,” cautioned the U.S. diplomat.

The DHIS 2.0 is linked to the Ministry of Health and Child Care website
The DHIS 2.0 is linked to the Ministry of Health and Child Care website

Among the new information and communication technologies unveiled on Thursday is an upgraded version of the District Health Information System database (DHIS-2.0). Explaining how the new software is organised and works, Dr Ponesai Nyika, Deputy Director Information and Surveillance in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said only users with credentials, mostly health officers at all levels, are going to access the database.“ It is a very interactive system that will allow you to see some notifications including lessons that you have not learnt,” he said. He added: “You can generate interpretations and create groups for discussions, and as data is entered on DHIS 2 the graphic depictions will be changing.”

The United States (U.S) President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), through the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is providing US$19 million funding and technical support to MoHCC under two separate cooperative agreements with Research Triangle International and UZ Department of Community Medicine Surveys, Evaluations, Assessments and Monitoring (DCM-SEAM) for health systems strengthening specifically focusing on health-related strategic information.  Other partners included the Global Fund to Fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM).

Commissioning the new databases along with the newly designed health ministry website- http://www.mohcc.gov.zw/ which, among other information, is linked to the District Health Information System Software version 2.0 (DHIS 2.0), Dr David Parirenyatwa hailed the partnerships from the United States and the United Nations which also supported an earlier version of the District Health Information Systems.

“This is a very important launch for us, because Africa now is rising,” said the minister citing high mobile phone penetration. “This is strategic at facility level, policy level and at individual level. For the individual, it supports not only the patient’s profile and treatment needs for clinical decision-making purposes but also for public health needs supporting the revitalization of fundamental elements of primary health care such as community participation.” He pledged his ministry’s undertaking to ensure that health officers “feed accurate and up-to-date information that is relevant and appropriate into the system.”

The improved version of the DHIS continues the tradition which was started around 2010 with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) which provided equipment and training to health ministry staff. “It is a necessary guide that the UNDP has supported the Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency in its efforts to make available to policy makers timely statistical data,” Denise Finley Antonio of UNDP said. “As the principal recipient of the Global Fund grants in Zimbabwe, UNDP is mandated to ensure an effective and efficient management of the grants. Availability of timely data and reports is key to achieving this mandate.”

The new software has been successfully rolled in all 63 districts representing eight provincial and four city health information offices. To date, several previously parallel information systems have been integrated into DHIS 2.0. The successful roll out of this system has resulted in the timely availability of key reports such as the National Health Profile, Basic Services Trends Reports and quarterly Monitoring Reports capturing information about HIV/AIDS, WDSS, Psychiatric, Malaria, IMMIS, the Village Health Worker Form and the electronic Early Infant Diagnosis information systems. – ZimPAS © June 9, 2014.