Building the capacity of public health programmes to become data rich, information rich and action rich.
Harries AD., Khogali M., Kumar AMV., Satyanarayana S., Takarinda KC., Karpati A., Olliaro P., Zachariah R.
Good quality, timely data are the cornerstone of health systems, but in many countries these data are not used for evidence-informed decision making and/or for improving public health. The SORT IT (Structured Operational Research and Training Initiative) model has, over 8 years, trained health workers in low- and middle-income countries to use data to answer important public health questions by taking research projects through to completion and publication in national or international journals. The D2P (data to policy) training initiative is relatively new, and it teaches health workers how to apply 'decision analysis' and develop policy briefs for policy makers: this includes description of a problem and the available evidence, quantitative comparisons of policy options that take into account predicted health and economic impacts, and political and feasibility assessments. Policies adopted from evidence-based information generated through the SORT IT and D2P approaches can be evaluated to assess their impact, and the cycle repeated to identify and resolve new public health problems. Ministries of Health could benefit from this twin-training approach to make themselves 'data rich, information rich and action rich', and thereby use routinely collected data in a synergistic manner to improve public health policy making and health care delivery.