DHIS 2: Data that informs action

In Sinafala village, Zambia, data collector Odinga Chitonka, collects data on his mobile phone. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

In Sinafala village, Zambia, data collector Odinga Chitonka, collects data on his mobile phone. Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

While nationally representative household surveys are useful for understanding malaria trends and planning for next steps, to achieve elimination of malaria, more precise and timely information is required on malaria burden and interventions at provincial, district, and health facility catchment area levels. This level of detail provides malaria programs with the data they require to be responsive to local needs. Enter DHIS 2.

District Health Information Software, or DHIS, is an open-source health management information platform used to monitor health interventions, improve malaria surveillance, and speed up data access. Data provided through DHIS 2 enables countries to make strategic, evidence-driven decisions to improve service delivery. With the advent of data entry via mobile phones, reporting is more flexible and timely than ever.1

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Photo: PATH/Gabe Bienczycki.

Zambia is among the 47 countries that currently employ DHIS 2. In that country health facility staff and community health workers from over 300 health facility catchment areas are trained to test and treat community members for malaria symptoms and record results on their phones, data which is then uploaded to the DHIS 2 database. Rapid reporting and surveillance allows for closer-to-home malaria case detection so that teams can clear out infections before they are spread to other community members. Reporting is taking place weekly for 560 clinics. At the community level approximately 2,500 community health workers report monthly.

The national health management information system (HMIS) in Zambia also uses DHIS2 as its backbone, with over 1,900 facilities reporting. All malaria-related data collected in DHIS 2 can be accessed and used by other national health programs linking into the same system. The simple but powerful interface ensures that the data is at the fingertips of district staff. Dashboards collate data at the provincial and district levels and allow for drill-down into health facility catchment areas as well. Data is also plotted on a map, allowing for accurate pinpointing of cases to expose malaria “hotspots.”

The use of DHIS 2 to capture malaria-related information has helped improve countries’ understanding of the links between malaria disease burden, use of rapid diagnostic tests, and administration of anti-malarial drugs administered. By using high quality, timely data and information generated by DHIS 2, countries can move quickly and nationally toward the goal of eliminating the disease that has plagued them for far too long.

Footnotes

  1. The “2” in DHIS 2 refers to the mobile phone version.