Informed decisions for actions in maternal and newborn health

Bringing together district-level data for better maternal and newborn health decisions in West Bengal, India

Bringing together district-level data for better maternal and newborn health decisions in West Bengal, India

Maternal health record books © Bilal Avan
15 May 2015
The IDEAS project will test a Data-Informed Platform for Health (DIPH) in two districts of West Bengal State, India, between 2015 and 2017.

The DIPH will enable district health stakeholders – local government departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and private health providers – to share data and use it in decision-making and planning for community health.

Three recent Government of India health reports have identified data quality and use as a problem, and the need to strengthen data-management as a priority [1]. If data-sharing in districts - the lowest effective administrative level of decision-making in the Indian health system - can be improved, there will be opportunities to reduce duplication, make better use of resources and meet community health needs more fully.

The IDEAS project is based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and will work on the DIPH in collaboration with the Public Health Foundation of India. The project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

How can a Data-Informed Platform for Health support good health decisions?

South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts in West Bengal have a combined population of over 18 million people and are considered priority districts for improving maternal and newborn health services.

The primary objective of the DIPH is to encourage district-health stakeholders to use local data for:

  1. Decision-making, priority-setting and planning
  2. Appraisal of health services and programmes

The DIPH is to be tested in the area of maternal and newborn health. It will bring governmental and non-governmental service providers to a common forum on a regular basis, in order to share maternal and newborn health data according to an agreed plan. The DIPH will be implemented using novel tools:

  • Dashboard: a visual synthesis of district-level health data relevant to local administrators.
  • Data for decision-making tool: aids local decision-makers to prioritise and plan based on the available data.
  • Decision tracking tool: aids monitoring of decisions. The tool provides a structure for recording and tracking all activities undertaken and resources allocated through the DIPH.

How will we know if the Data-Informed Platform for Health is feasible and useful?

The DIPH will be evaluated based on the following questions:

  • Is data being used in district-level planning and progress monitoring and, if so, how?
  • What were the DIPH mechanisms (systems, processes, tools) used for data-sharing and consensus-building among government stakeholders?
  • To what extent were the dashboard, data for decision-making and data tracking tools useful for health system planning and progress monitoring at the district level?

Using the Data-Informed Platform for Health for evaluations

Although not being studied in this research, the DIPH could potentially be a way of getting data to evaluate the success of maternal and newborn health innovations through the development of an implementation strength score. A score is developed by comparing the effort put into implementing an innovation and the health outcomes within a population.

More information

For more information about this study, please contact the study lead: Dr Bilal Avan, bilal.avan@lshtm.ac.uk


1. HMIS (2015b). Fact Sheets – Maternal and Child Health Indicators (2013-14 & 2014-15) – West Bengal, MoHFW; the State National Health Mission (2015); National Health Mission (2015) Approval of Program Implementation Plan 2014-2015 - West Bengal, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal.