Routine Health Information Systems Curriculum
To ensure the delivery of good-quality health services to the people who need them, the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes strengthening the six building blocks of a health system: (1) governance and policy; (2) service delivery; (3) human resources; (4) health commodities; (5) health financing; and (6) health information systems (HIS). A strong HIS makes it possible to track progress on improving the other five health-system building blocks and, ultimately, to monitor the achievement of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Strong HIS that produce reliable, timely, and good-quality data help health program managers to monitor, evaluate, and improve health system performance and make evidence-informed decisions. Since the 1990s, knowledge and understanding of the role of HIS development in global health systems have improved. Despite this, use of information for evidence-informed decision making—particularly data produced by routine health information systems (RHIS)—is still very weak in most low- and middle-income countries. RHIS generate data collected at public and private health facilities and institutions, as well as at community-level healthcare posts and clinics. These data—generated at regular intervals of a year or less—cover health status, health services, and health resources. Some of the root causes of poor RHIS performance are ill-defined information needs; poor data quality; issues surrounding the use of information; limited human resource capacity; and the centralization and fragmentation of HIS. There is a need to build the capacity of developing countries to collect, manage, and interpret health data. And this, in turn, will require training on an unprecedented scale. One focus of this training needs to be RHIS—the most common source of information on health services management and programs. Relevant and well-structured courses on RHIS are few, and are not tailored to the needs of developing countries. To address this gap, leaders in the field of RHIS—the USAID-funded MEASURE Evaluation project, in the United States; WHO, in Switzerland; the Free University of Brussels/European Agency for Development and Health (AEDES), in Belgium; the University of Oslo, in Norway; the National Institute of Public Health (INSP), in Mexico; the University of Queensland, in Australia; and the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI)—developed the curriculum presented here. Using practical case studies, participants in this core RHIS course will learn how to improve the performance of RHIS, by producing reliable data to inform decisions at all levels of the health system. They will also come to understand the important contribution of information and communication technology.