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 {Photo by: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/nyayahealth/7157522726/">Possible</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">CC BY</a>}A female health volunteer surveys women to gather data in Nepal. Better health information is vital to achieving health goals.Photo by: Possible CC BY

In many developing countries, true life-and-death decisions hinge on information that’s old, unreliable or both.

Without strong national capacity for data collection, health officials are left in the dark when monitoring outbreaks of diseases like Ebola or trying to improve care for cancer patients. Many countries are unable to produce an accurate picture of their progress toward universal health coverage (UHC) or even assess their starting point.

Meanwhile, the global health community has rallied behind ambitious sustainable development goals for the post-2015 era, an agenda that adopts new priorities like achieving UHC and addressing noncommunicable diseases alongside updated targets for the health-related Millennium Development Goals. Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for health foresees countries’ taking increased ownership over health priority-setting and program implementation.

{Photo credit: Warren Zelman.}Photo credit: Warren Zelman.

Nearly three years ago, I blogged about a systems approach to improving access for a Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) series on maternal health commodities:

Increasing access to essential medicines and supplies for maternal health requires a systems approach that includes: improving governance of pharmaceutical systems, strengthening supply chain management, increasing the availability of information for decision-making, developing appropriate financing strategies and promoting rational use of medicines and supplies.

 {Photo credit: Emily Phillips/MSH Afghanistan}A postnatal woman with her newborn and mother-in-law.Photo credit: Emily Phillips/MSH Afghanistan

Last month I represented Management Sciences for Health (MSH) at Oxfam India’s South Asia Consultation on Maternal Health in Kathmandu, Nepal. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss significant maternal health programming experiences in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and to suggest strategic directions for Oxfam India’s future maternal health programming. More than 30 representatives from governments, national and international universities, and nongovernmental organizations attended.

Three elements of improving maternal health outcomes stood out in my mind from discussions at the meeting:

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