IMA World Health has been working with the Ministry of Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC, for more than 10 years to support the development of an effective and efficient National Health Information System in the country. This central reporting system collects health statistics for the entire country. Given the recent significant strides made in improving this system, the ultimate aim now is to have all stakeholders shift to using the national system, reducing the parallel reporting systems that do not bolster the local government initiative.

In the past, DRC’s national health information system struggled to provide useful data that could be used to improve health decision-making and guide resource allocation. This was largely due to health facilities and their workers lacking the equipment, training and time to effectively collect, input and analyze data. Now through a collaboration with many partners, including the Ministry of Health and IMA World Health implementing the Access to Primary Health Care Project, or ASSP, the team has rolled out a web-based management information system known as DHIS 2 across health zones in DRC with help from principal technical partner, BAO Systems.

“This collaboration kicked off in 2012 when, with money from UK’s Department for International Development, we were able to take the ministry to South Sudan and show them what we had done there to get a health information system that is reporting on health statistics for the country,” said Dr. Larry Sthreshley, IMA World Health DRC Country Director. “After that trip, within six months the government had adopted DHIS as its national platform and quit working with its old system.”

The effort has resulted in more than 89 percent of the country using the new platform. As part of this integration, the country’s 516 health zones moved from paper-based reporting at all levels to electronic reporting at the health zone level with health workers inputting the paper-based reports from health centers into the system on a monthly basis. To help ensure success, VSAT satellites and solar panels were installed in health zones that did not have electricity or internet access to ensure this monthly reporting into the system.

As a result of rapid and effective transition, in October 2016 IMA hosted senior officials from DRC in Washington, D.C., including the Secretary General of the Ministry of Health and the head of the National Health Information System Division to discuss possible next steps to improve the system. Also in attendance were all major supporting staff from the ministry, BAO and IMA.

“The goal of the meetings in D.C. was to meet with our principal technical partner, BAO, and discuss the technical options that are available to the country for it to configure its health information system in away that it becomes more accurate and more accessible to everyone,” Sthreshley said.

For the DRC officials, the week of meetings was also a chance for them to meet with experts, ask questions and discuss the roll out for the next version of DHIS 2 in 2017.

“I am very satisfied with the collaboration between the government in DRC, the Ministry of Health and IMA,” said Dr. Mukengeshayi Kupa, the Secretary General of Health in DRC. “I am also very impressed by the work done by BAO. It is very important because we need to improve the health information national system in DRC, and DHIS 2 is a very very useful software.”

In fact, according to Kupa, he believes that the country’s health system and the people of DRC will benefit from the system as it expands and improves.

“It is clear now that we have two priorities moving forward. The first is to do everything necessary to improve our use of DHIS 2 and the second is to see how to integrate other programs into DHIS 2. We will host a workshop in DRC to see how to move forward with these priorities.”

Dr. Salomon Salumu, the head of the National Health Information System Division, echoed the sentiments of the Secretary General.

“This week of meetings is important because there are a lot of conversations happening in the country about our collaboration and people want to learn more,” Salumu said. “So it is important that we are here with all the experts to discuss the roll out of the second version of DHIS 2 and its integration.”

According to Sthreshley, IMA now conducts almost all of its reporting through the DHIS 2.

“We have come to a point in the project where we need to look at what our options are for the future and how we can fit our activities to the new national health plan,” Sthreshley said. “This way all health information data within the country can go through a complementary or open source platform so that it is accessible to the government, donors and anyone else that needs information on health in DRC.”

The roll out of the second version began in March 2017. The long-term goal is to have all stakeholders in DRC working through DHIS 2 with access managed by the national government.

Members of the IMA staff and DRC government are attending the “DHIS 2 Symposium 2017” this week hosted by the University of Oslo and BAO Systems taking place on March 23 – 24 in Washington, D.C.

The Projet d’Accès aux Soins de Santé Primaire, or the Access to Primary Health Care Project (ASSP) is a 5-year, £182.9 million (US $304.5 million) project funded by the department for International development (DFID) through UK Aid and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The ASSP project seeks to improve primary health care in 56 health zones in five provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo – Kasaï Occidental, Maniema, Equateur, Oriental and South Kivu – for a population of 8.3 million people. IMA World Health leads the consortium of implementing partners including SANRU, CARITAS, World Vision and IRC, with technical assistance from Tulane University (in collaboration with the University Of Kinshasa School Of Public Health), Pathfinder, HISP, and IntraHealth.