Resources, indicators, data management, dissemination and use in health information systems in sub-Saharan Africa: results of a questionnaire-based survey

J R Soc Med. 2014 May;107(1 suppl):28-33. doi: 10.1177/0141076814528690. Epub 2014 Apr 16.


Objective: To describe the status of health information systems in 14 sub-Saharan African countries of the World Health Organization African Region.

Design: A questionnaire-based survey.

Setting: Fourteen sub-Saharan African countries of the African Region.

Participants: Key informants in the ministries of health, national statistics offices, health programmes, donors and technical agencies.

Main outcome measures: State of resources, indicators, data sources, data management, information products, dissemination and use of health information.

Results: The highest average score was in the identification and harmonisation of indicators (73%), reflecting successful efforts to identify priority indicators and reach international consensus on indicators for several diseases. This was followed by information products (63%), which indicated the availability of accurate and reliable data. The lowest score (41%) was in data management, the ability to collect, store, analyse and distribute data, followed by resources - policy and planning, human and financial resources, and infrastructure (53%). Data sources (e.g. censuses, surveys) were on average inadequate with a score of 56%. The average score for dissemination and use of health information was 57%, which indicated limited or inadequate use of data for advocacy, planning and decision-making.

Conclusions: National health information systems are weak in the surveyed countries and much more needs to be done to improve the quality and relevance of data, and their management, sharing and use for policy-making and decision-making.

Keywords: data management; data use; decision-making; health information; health system.