From Data to Decisons in Swaziland

On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, February 20th - 22nd, members of the public sector human resources for health staff in Swaziland gathered in Ezulwini Valley to understand the importance of using data for decision making. Participants represented both regional health facility and central level interests and provided a well-rounded picture of the needs for data for better decisions and planning within the public health sector.

On day one of the workshop participants discussed how data has been used in their personal lives to inform decisions and noted that the best decisions have been made when quality data was available. In addition, members of the Health Statistics Unit (HSU) from the Ministry of Health introduced some reports currently available from the human resource information system (HRIS). There was great participant interest in these reports and for many, represented their first time seeing the reports already available. For others who previously observed the reports, at the workshop they came to understand how the reports are produced and how these reports can save them time and effort in future. In the afternoon the HSU provided an overview of the HRIS and illustrated the ease with which reports may be produced. An abstract exercise on data flow proved both entertaining and educational, underscoring many of the issues with data the participants observe in their daily work such as disappearing data, incomplete data, and mysterious changes that sometimes occur between the data source and data reporting stages.

On day two participants worked together to define many of the terms present in the HRIS and in reporting to share a common meaning. This greatly assisted the afternoon activity led again by HSU to overview regionally-focused reports. Additional working groups focused on making data accessible and easy to use and discussed how data may be used to better inform policy and practice. Working groups also reviewed the May 2007 draft policy and management questions and provided their input on how the questions should be altered to meet the current need.

On day three the facilitator introduced some case studies to ensure the participants could apply the skills discussed in the workshop to better inform their decisions. The HSU provided a presentation to inform participants on the process to update incorrect information and inform them on how to request reports. Lastly, the co-facilitators summarized the policy and management exercise from day two and received feedback on how to best prioritize the needs to continue evolution of the HRIS.

Overall comments from workshop participants were very positive with several requests to conduct similar workshops for decision makers at all levels. Participants noted they feel better equipped to use data available to inform their decisions in both work and their personal lives and committed to seek out information in advance of necessary decisions in future.