India’s Health Management Information System (HMIS) captures crucial data on the implementation and performance of key national health programs, especially those geared to the strategic reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health (RMNCH+A) initiative of the Government of India. However, there have been concerns, based on anecdotal observations, about the quality of the HMIS data, resulting in underutilization of the data. Improving the quality of HMIS data and its use are thus two critical thrusts of the national health ministry. The HFG project has been supporting India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in its efforts to strengthen HMIS, successfully undertaking a pilot assessment of HMIS data quality in five districts of the country.
Seeking to generate wider understanding and use of the wealth of data provided by HMIS, HFG’s team in India conducted a plenary session at the 37th annual conference of the Indian Association for the Study of Population (IASP), in New Delhi in December 2016. IASP is a professional organization of Indian demographers engaged in diverse social science disciplines.
The HFG-led technical session at the conference focused on the potential utility of HMIS as a rich data resource and the role of regular assessments in ensuring data quality. The panel included Dr. Vishnu Kant Srivastava (Chief Director, Statistics Division, MoHFW), Ms. Neeta Rao (Senior Research and Evaluation Advisor, Health Office, USAID/India Mission), Dr. Jayachandran AA (Senior Technical Advisor, Avenir Health), Dr. Lysander Menezes (Chief of Party, HFG India), and Dr. Alia Kauser (Technical Specialist, HFG India). The session began with an overview of HFG India’s work to improve data quality and use. Panelists then delivered presentations on HMIS as a data resource, the role of structured assessment methodologies in ensuring data quality, and the utility of HMIS data for indirect demographic estimation.
The panel discussion generated excitement about the usefulness of HMIS’s rich public health data for demographic research among the demographers in attendance. Given the prior lack of interest from demographers in using HMIS data, and general misgivings about HMIS data quality, this was a win for the advocacy efforts.
In attendance was the nationally renowned demographer, Dr. Arvind Pandey, who said:
“HMIS has a wealth of information. It is real and concurrent data…researchers should tap its full potential to answer specific questions for specific populations.”
The HFG-led session also drew praise from IASP leadership. Dr. UV Somayajulu (President, IASP) lauded “the immensely useful plenary session on HMIS,” saying it was “well received and appreciated by the delegates and benefited all in gaining insights in the context of HMIS.”