Data Summit sets public health agenda

Anova hosted its first summit in March solely focused on Data. Over 100 delegates attended the summit in Johannesburg which aimed at engaging leaders in HIV, TB and Public Health to set the agenda to optimise data use in the public health sector.

Titled, Scaling Data use for HIV/TB epidemic control across health sectors, speakers included Thobela Mhlublwana and Emily Mabusela from Gauteng Health, and Derek Sedlacek from USAID.

The first session looked at data use in public health. In this session, different stakeholders elaborated on data use and how to use data to improve patient care. Thobela highlighted the loss to follow-up and the data gaps that exist here, saying: “We need to know what reforms are needed to use and interpret data properly.”

Derek focused on the second 90 (by 2020, 90% of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, ART) in the 90-90-90 treatment target. He said that ART is very low which shows that our programme is fundamentally weak. He also added that we are taking too long to react and “data teams need to look at data weekly”.

This was followed by 2 breakaway sessions. The first breakaway looked at scaling data quality and usability, with Dr Ronel Kellerman looking at lessons learnt from digitizing a public health clinic, and how to prepare for this. He highlighted the importance of using technology to improve data quality and availability.

Chaz Tembo from Anova highlighted the phased approach to data quality improvement. He discussed Anova’s approach to data quality using technical working groups

In the second breakaway, scaling data availability within specific programs and populations, speakers highlighted how to use data in programmes in order to meet different needs in the community and how to use data through mapping to improve.

Ben Brown from Anova presented on Scaling up CBOs and community NGOs on data collection, management, reporting and use – Lessons learnt from EQUIP. He focused on how they always refine strategies to accommodate different communities in different countries. He said that data collection needs to adapt and integrate into the existing infrastructure to complement the programme. In Mozambique, the team simplified the data collection tools so that the people found it user-friendly.

Rivka Lilian, a Public Health Analyst at Anova, highlighted the importance of mapping in data collection and interpretation, and how this influences the strategies/interventions needed to be put in place to resolve issues.

“A map alone is not GIS. Data needs to be brought in so that visualisation and analysis of data can be done…you can also determine where you must focus your testing efforts."

The summit gave a platform for stakeholders, research, programme and data specialists a platform to share best practices and collaborate on how to move forward in improving data usage in the public health space.

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