Using data to improve programs: Assessment of a data quality and use intervention package for integrated community case management in Malawi

Elizabeth Hazel, Emmanuel Chimbalanga, Tiyese Chimuna, Humphreys Nsona, Angella Mtimuni, Ernest Kaludzu, Kate Gilroy, Tanya Guentherg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) have been providing integrated community case management (iCCM) for sick children in Malawi since 2008. HSAs report monthly iCCM program data but, at the time of this study, little of it was being used for service improvement. Additionally, HSAs and facility health workers did not have the tools to compile and visualize the data they collected to make evidence-based program decisions. From 2012 to 2013, we worked with Ministry of Health staff and partners to develop and pilot a program in Dowa and Kasungu districts to improve data quality and use at the health worker level. We developed and distributed wall chart templates to display and visualize data, provided training to 426 HSAs and supervisors on data analysis using the templates, and engaged health workers in program improvement plans as part of a data quality and use (DQU) package. We assessed the package through baseline and endline surveys of the HSAs and facility and district staff in the study areas, focusing specifically on availability of reporting forms, completeness of the forms, and consistency of the data between different levels of the health system as measured through results verification ratio (RVR). We found evidence of significant improvements in reporting consistency for suspected pneumonia illness (from overreporting cases at baseline [RVR=0.82] to no reporting inconsistency at endline [RVR=1.0]; P=.02). Other non-significant improvements were measured for fever illness and gender of the patient. Use of the data-display wall charts was high; almost all HSAs and three-fourths of the health facilities had completed all months since January 2013. Some participants reported the wall charts helped them use data for program improvement, such as to inform community health education activities and to better track stock-outs. Since this study, the DQU package has been scaled up in Malawi and expanded to 2 other countries. Unfortunately, without the sustained support and supervision provided in this project, use of the tools in the Malawi scale-up is lower than during the pilot period. Nevertheless, this pilot project shows community and facility health workers can use data to improve programs at the local level given the opportunity to access and visualize the data along with supervision support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-366
Number of pages12
JournalGlobal Health Science and Practice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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