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Blog Post

Better quality routine health data through a WhatsApp group? What comes out of the Data Quality Workshops in Gombe State

by Antoinette Bhattacharya

published 19 February 2018

At IDEAS, a lot of our work focuses on making good quality maternal and newborn health data available to support decision-making based on evidence. In particular, government agencies and implementing partners use routine data to identify gaps and take action to improve performance. However, we know that in many settings routine data are not able to fully serve this purpose due to its poor quality.

To strengthen the quality of routine maternal and newborn health data in Gombe State in 2017 the IDEAS project initiated a total of four data quality learning workshops to support local government area  (LGA) maternal, neonatal and child health (MNCH) coordinators, as well as staff working on monitoring and evaluation (M&E), with a workshop taking place every six months.

Participants prepare and review graphs during the data quality workshop

We are now half way through this series of workshops and already things have changed quite a bit. The first workshop focused on introducing job aids to review the dimensions of data quality and develop a plan-do-study-act cycle to improve data quality in health facilities. Following the first workshop, the LGA M&E officers and MNCH coordinators were motivated to improve the consistency of data between the facility registers and facility monthly summary reports. They also agreed to revitalize two data quality groups, which had been previously established to promote monitoring and evaluation but had became irregular. One of the groups was run through a WhatsApp group for the LGA officers and the other was a monthly LGA data validation committee to double check the facilities’ monthly summary reports against their original facility records. I have written about my experience participating in one of the LGA data validation committee meetings in a separate blog post.

The second data quality workshop, which took place in October 2017, focused on expanding the participants’ practical experience in interpreting the results of their data quality review and presenting their findings for constructive peer-review. While the LGA M&E officers and MNCH coordinators were struck by the inconsistency of data between facility registers and facility monthly reports at the first workshop, during the second workshop participants noted their surprise at the incompleteness of data contained within the monthly reports. They also noted the incompleteness of high priority data elements such as skilled birth attendance, syphilis testing and treatment, and stillbirths.  The action plan emerging from this second workshop included the LGA teams aiming to support facilities improve documentation within the registers and further leverage the data validation committees to ensure facilities understand how to fill out monthly reporting forms as expected.

We have two more workshops planned for 2018 and look forward to working with the Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency to build on the knowledge and capacity that exists within the local government areas and staff, as well as identify where we can further support to improve the quality of their routine data.