Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Thomas F. Daughton at the Launch of the District Health Information System Version 2
Good morning! I have said it before and I will say it again: Namibia’s response to the HIV epidemic is data-driven and always has been. Today we get another opportunity to see proof of that statement with the launch of the second version of the Namibian District Health Information System, or DHIS2. I’m pleased to be able to say that DHIS2 was made possible with funding from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Namibia’s first district health information system, launched in 2003, has been successfully used by the Ministry of Health and Social Services and its partners for many years to record, monitor and analyze the facts and figures that quantitatively describe the healthcare situation in Namibia. However, as many of the people in this room know better than I do, the first DHIS was just one of a half-dozen different data-capturing platforms. The competing platforms meant that information was fragmented, making it extremely difficult to consolidate, triangulate and analyze data.
DHIS2 fixes that. It is a significantly improved, routine data monitoring system that provides a single platform to capture and aggregate all health data. That makes improved data interpretation possible, which in turn allows for better evidence-based decision making. Let me give you an example: In order to eliminate mother-to-child-transmission of HIV completely, the Ministry needs to monitor current mother-to-child transmission rates across the country in real time. DHIS2 makes that possible. Another example: The Ministry needs to monitor the real-time performance of healthcare delivery through indicators likes bed occupancy rate and number of out-patient visits. DHIS2 makes that possible, too, providing data to inform decisions about resource allocation and budgeting. Another thing DHIS2 will allow you to do is improve monitoring of immunization rates, at the same time that it lets you improve routine surveillance of preventable diseases like measles and malaria. DHIS2 allows for better evidence-based decision making in all of those areas – and more.
The end result – and this is the basic goal – will be more effective delivery of health services to Namibians. In short, we are here today to celebrate the improvement of a system that has been working but will now work even better; a system that has been updated to meet the needs of Namibia in 2017 and in the years to come. It’s worth noting that the technology underlying DHIS2 is already used in more than fifty countries on four continents, so we are in good company launching a system that we know will meet the demands we will place on it. DHIS2 will improve the timeliness and quality of data collected, improve how the data is visualized and interpreted, and most important, improve how the collected data is used.
But it’s important to point out that you can’t accomplish all of that with just any old numbers. In order to be useful, data needs to be accurate, relevant and timely. DHIS2 lets technical staff monitor that and more. With a few clicks of a mouse, they can analyze not just the data itself, but how long it took for data to be submitted. I think we all know the frustrations of having to rely on old data. When we want to know how to address a particular situation or fix a particular problem, we need real-time information to develop real-time solutions. How many times have we heard, when we ask about a particular problem, that it’s “a data issue”? With DHIS2, that should become a thing of the past, and instead you’ll be able to justify every strategic decision with robust data that presents a realistic picture of the current situation in Namibia.
So, accuracy, relevance and timeliness – DHIS2 gives you all three. But it has another advantage: accessibility. DHIS2 is a web-based system. Technical teams, program managers and Ministry planners can access the data anywhere in Namibia – or in the world, for that matter – provided that they have an internet connection. DHIS2 can be accessed on a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, even a smartphone. And the advantages of DHIS2 are not limited to the people who already using the system. DHIS2 will make it much easier for the Ministry to respond to requests for data from the public, from the media and from civil society.
On top of all of this, the improvements in DHIS2 make the system fundamentally more versatile. The same data can be visualized in many different ways – in tables, graphs or maps, for example – as the user prefers. You want a map that shows concentrations of a certain medical issue? You can get it. Maybe you prefer a bar graph that shows how many patients with a particular disorder are being treated at each medical facility in a region. You can get that, too. DHIS2 is built on the concept that each individual user is going to find different representations of the data easier to understand and use. Some will want to see the data in a table, others will prefer it laid out on different types of graphs, and still others will need to look at maps before they even know where to begin with planning. With DHIS2, all of that is possible.
The launch of DHIS2 provides the Ministry of Health and Social Services with better tools to plan, monitor and adjust its response to the HIV epidemic in Namibia. My government has been pleased to collaborate with the Ministry on this project and we look forward to seeing this improved data management system help Namibia achieve its ultimate goals not just of ending the HIV epidemic, but of improving delivery of health services generally to the Namibian people. Thank you.