Strengthening Data Management Leads to Improved Family Planning Programming in Mombasa
Contributor: Levis Onsase
One of The Challenge Initiative’s (TCI) guiding principles is using near- to real-time data to learn and adapt. As TCI engages with local government partners, it strengthens their capacity to use data for problem-solving and better decision-making. Existing data systems, particularly local health management information systems (HMIS), provide ongoing data and are supplemented with project records, PMA Agile (an innovative mobile-based platform that facilitates rapid, low-cost collection and tracking of data) and other local tracking surveys. Qualitative methods, such as the Most SignificantChange technique, help to make sense of complex program impacts in dynamic contexts and inform management decisions. On a regular basis, TCI takes all of these data points into consideration to learn from doing – what it refers to as “thinkering.” And it encourages its local government partners to do the same.
What Is Thinkering?
A fusion of the words “think” and “tinkering,” TCI stakeholders are encouraged to constantly reflect on, review and revisit their assumptions, strategies and ways of working, especially if desired outcomes are not materializing.
Josephine Waronja, Deputy Head of Planning and Policy Monitoring and Evaluation of Mombasa county’s Health Department shares how she not only embodies this principle but also how strengthening her team’s capacity related to data management has improved family planning programming. She recently sat down with TCI to tell her story.
Numbers Tell the Tale
I love numbers! I believe numbers tell us something. This belief inspires much of my work as a Deputy Head of Health Planning & Policy Monitoring and Evaluation in Mombasa County. Moreover, you will see the same commitment from our Health Management Team (HMT); they want to see how their activities are helping us to improve our health indicators. If we want to make significant strides in addressing our health gaps, including enhancing access to quality family planning services especially by young people, our health workers and decision-makers need evidence from which they can focus efforts on.
Avoiding Data Errors
When I was first coached by TCI on use of data, what interested me most was the Sisi Kwa Sisi coaching (loosely translated “amongst ourselves”), which enabled us to mentor each other with the potential to get up-to-date information. However, the situation at the reporting level was challenging, especially in regards to getting data on time due to missing reports. In fact, when we did our first data quality assessment with the HMT in March last year, data errors were so many. It was embarrassing. I asked myself: what can I do to change this? I was not alone; my peers wanted to see their efforts [look better as well] and the only way I knew how was to start reviewing our data and correcting the errors. The TCI dashboard became our tool for ensuring all the data is captured. Ultimately, the flow of information through the dashboard helped us to focus on getting all our activities reported into the national health management information system (HMIS). The HMT team visited one of the private facilities in Kisauni sub-county. At the time of the visit, data management was not where we wanted it to be; there was a data variance above 5% between the facility register and the government reporting system [HMIS]. Through the support of Sisi Kwa Sisi, I proposed to mentor the facility on data management and accurate reporting, conducting facility data reviews.
Accurate Reporting and Strengthened FP Programs
Follow-up was made together with other team members, and one year later, the facility has shown great improvement. One year later, we visited various facilities with the HMT to conduct family planning data quality audits for the period of December 2020 through February 2021 and the results were amazing! First, we have consistently reported over the year. And within the last three months, we have achieved a reporting rate of 100%. Secondly, there is growth of the service workload and the facility teams validate their data monthly and document findings from this exercise. The facility was able to start integrated outreaches, which has boosted their workload. On the day we visited, we coached the facility on TCI University to access information on the impact strategies. I look forward to continuing the coaching in more facilities to enable us to strengthen our family planning programs based on the valuable data and qualitative information the county now has.”