National health information systems for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

BMJ Open. 2019 May 16;9(5):e027689. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018-027689.


Objectives: Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require data-driven public health action. There are limited publications on national health information systems that continuously generate health data. Given the need to develop these systems, we summarised their current status in low-income and middle-income countries.

Setting: The survey team jointly developed a questionnaire covering policy, planning, legislation and organisation of case reporting, patient monitoring and civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems. From January until May 2017, we administered the questionnaire to key informants in 51 Centers for Disease Control country offices. Countries were aggregated for descriptive analyses in Microsoft Excel.

Results: Key informants in 15 countries responded to the questionnaire. Several key informants did not answer all questions, leading to different denominators across questions. The Ministry of Health coordinated case reporting, patient monitoring and CRVS systems in 93% (14/15), 93% (13/14) and 53% (8/15) of responding countries, respectively. Domestic financing supported case reporting, patient monitoring and CRVS systems in 86% (12/14), 75% (9/12) and 92% (11/12) of responding countries, respectively. The most common uses for system-generated data were to guide programme response in 100% (15/15) of countries for case reporting, to calculate service coverage in 92% (12/13) of countries for patient monitoring and to estimate the national burden of disease in 83% (10/12) of countries for CRVS. Systems with an electronic component were being used for case reporting, patient monitoring, birth registration and death registration in 87% (13/15), 92% (11/12), 77% (10/13) and 64% (7/11) of responding countries, respectively.

Conclusions: Most responding countries have a solid foundation for policy, planning, legislation and organisation of health information systems. Further evaluation is needed to assess the quality of data generated from systems. Periodic evaluations may be useful in monitoring progress in strengthening and harmonising these systems over time.

Keywords: Health Informatics; Infectious Diseases; International Health Services.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Developing Countries
  • Goals
  • Health Information Systems / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Health Information Systems / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Public Health
  • Sustainable Development*