Health Information, or Lack Thereof in Haiti

Health Information, or Lack Thereof in Haiti

I recently visited Haiti and had the opportunity to meet with some local Haitian non-governmental organizations supported by MSH’s Santé pour le Développement et la Stabilité d’Haíïti (SDSH) project, as well as the central Ministry of Health, and departmental Ministry of Health offices. I was searching for information in an effort to learn more about how Performance-Based Financing (PBF) has affected service delivery in Haiti. The SDSH-supported facilities produce monthly service utilization reports that capture the important information, but I’ve been working to obtain comparable information on other facilities. My first thought was the Health Information System (HIS) Unit at the Ministry of Health (MoH).

Health facilities are expected to report information on the number of services provided to the departmental MoH offices each month, and then the departments in turn report to the central MoH. This monthly report includes the number of general consultations provided, the number of family planning methods distributed, the number of people put on anti-retroviral treatment, and the number of tuberculosis tests administered, among many other services. This information is critical in helping facilities understand the population that they are serving, allocate resources effectively, and note major achievements.

I continue to be amazed at the quality of information that comes out of the SDSH supported facilities. These facilities submit complete reports, on time each month. In talking with them I see they are making  good use of the information that they have accessible to them. They use the data to track their progress, identify gaps, and think about the development of successful strategies to make improvements in areas where the organization or clinic is weak.

After the earthquake, all of the health information at the central level of the Ministry was lost. Paper files were ruined; computers (and their hard drives) were completely unsalvageable. The current health management information system unit of the central MoH is little more than a tent. My expectations for what they might be able to provide us were low. Unfortunately they did not have much information to share.

On Monday morning, I flew up to Cap Haitien, which is in the very northern part of Haiti to visit two departments. In my meetings with officials from the Nord and Nord’Est department, I was surprised to find the lack of information that is available here. I could only get monthly facility utilization data from 2007 until 2010. They cited the same challenges: computer crashes, viruses, lack of computerized information, and low reporting from the individual facilities.

Effective utilization of health information is one of the six pillars to a strong health system. It is a crucial pillar in a health system because it helps ensure that decisions made at all levels are well informed.

Kate Dilley, MPH is an Administrative Coordinator at Management Sciences for Health.