Health management information incorporates all the data needed by policy makers, clinicians and health service users to improve and protect population health. Few countries in the world today have effective and comprehensive systems in place to gather this data.

Yet there has never been a greater need for robust health information. As the world community has turned its attention to meeting Millennium Development Goal targets, and ever increasing resources are going towards preventing and treating high burden diseases such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, decision-makers need to be able to measure whether policies and programmes are working, and whether progress is being made towards the goals that have been set. Donors are also placing more emphasis on performance, linking the release of funds to performance based measures.

The World Health Organization (WHO) argues that investment in health management information systems (HMIS) now could reap multiple benefits, including:

helping decision makers to detect and control emerging and endemic health problems, monitor progress towards health goals, and promote equity;
empowering individuals and communities with timely and understandable health-related information, and drive improvements in quality of services;
strengthening the evidence base for effective health policies, permitting evaluation of scale-up efforts, and enabling innovation through research;
improving governance, mobilizing new resources, and ensuring accountability in the way they are used.

This key issues guide examines some of the strategic and operational challenges involved in implementing HMIS; considers the evidence from some case studies; and asks what lessons have been learned to date.




 
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