Q&A: Supporting the Development of a National Health Cross-Cutting Dashboard in Tanzania
In January 2020, the Tanzania Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly, and Children (MoHCDGEC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization and the Technical Support Services Project (TSSP), identified the need for a national health cross-cutting dashboard that would allow for more efficient reporting from the District Health Information Software 2 (DHIS-2), which is the national health information data repository.
We spoke with Isaelly Nagunwa, Strategic Information Advisor, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) TSSP, and Claud John Kumalija, MoHCDGEC Head of Health Management Information System, on this successful initiative to help strengthen the health system planning and decision making in Tanzania and move the country toward its goal of achieving UNAIDS 95-95-95 targets by 2030.
What’s a cross-cutting dashboard, and why did the Tanzania health system need this system?
IN: The centralized dashboard is a vital component of a digital information strategy in Tanzania. It is a user-friendly interface that allows quick and easy access to data—tables, maps, charts, reports—for more efficient reporting from DHIS-2, which is a web-based platform used to collect data in all public health facilities. We came up with the idea to use a single centralized dashboard with one point of access that would collate data from various health programs and present the information in a visually friendly way. The dashboard makes it easier to analyze the data. This is key, especially during reporting and planning periods such as the preparation of Council and Regional Health Profiles and Comprehensive Health Council Plans. It makes planning and budgeting a much easier and more efficient process.
Why did the system need to change?
CK: DHIS-2 data retrieval was a challenge, and it was difficult for managers to track the indicators from different health programs. With the DHIS-2 cross-cutting dashboard, we are now able to pull all key program indicators into one template screen, where managers and high-level government officials can easily access data for quick review and action.
What was MSH’s role in developing the dashboard?
IN: We worked with the Ministry and other stakeholders to develop the cross-cutting dashboard guiding document, which provided insight into HIV program status and other health priorities for each district. We focused on priority health areas to develop 37 essential indicators, including for HIV/AIDS and related targets. We also supported technical meetings and workshops and worked with the University of Dar es Salaam to provide technical assistance on further developing the functionality of DHIS-2. Because it’s an open-source database, you need to customize it to meet your needs. We finalized the dashboard in May 2020 and are supporting the rollout plan, which is being implemented in stages.
CK: MSH was integral to the introduction of the Tanzania DHIS-2 cross-cutting dashboard. To date, we have achieved consensus on selection of the key indicators, customized the template, and held demonstration sessions with technical staff in the Ministry.
CK: DHIS-2 is now popular globally. Tanzania first started implementing DHIS-2 in 2013 with the support of UN agencies and funding partners. Since then, the system has improved the monthly reporting rate from 28% in 2013 to 95% in 2020, with more than 8,000 health facilities including public, faith-based, and private facilities reporting.
IN: DHIS-2-based data are now easier to access and provide more comprehensive information to health facilities, Council and Regional Health Management Teams, programs, implementing and development partners, the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government, and the MoHCDGEC. For example, the dashboard is providing critical support to our efforts to reduce maternal and newborn mortality. The mentioned stakeholders are now able to access data on a quarterly basis that report on the number of maternal and newborn deaths at a specific facility at the district, regional, and national levels. For HIV patients, we are able to retrieve data on the number of patients enrolled and tested in relation to regional, national, and global targets and how many antiretroviral loads need to be distributed.
IN: The first stage of the rollout supported the development of the training materials aligned with national standards. That was a big success. Now, we are working with the TSSP home office to develop e-learning training modules.
CK: The next step is to train central managers and regional and council staff on the use of the cross-cutting dashboard. The plan is to disseminate the dashboard to all health partners in the heath sector, including partners supporting HIV/AIDS programs; TB; malaria; reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health; and epidemiology, who in turn will disseminate it to and use it in their respective areas of support.
At this juncture, we would like to express our sincere appreciation to MSH for its wonderful and fruitful support. We are here today because of you. We are proud of the work we’ve done together!