Health information, research, evidence and knowledge
Data are crucial in improving health. The ultimate objective of collecting data is to inform health programme planning as well as policy-making and, ultimately, global health outcomes and equity. A well-functioning health information system empowers decision-makers to manage and lead more effectively by providing useful evidence at the lowest possible cost.
A health information system has been aptly described as "an integrated effort to collect, process, report and use health information and knowledge to influence policy-making, programme action and research". It consists of:
- inputs (resources)
- processes (selection of indicators and data sources; data collection and management)
- outputs (information products and information dissemination and use).
The role of a health information system is to generate, analyse and disseminate sound data for public health decision-making in a timely manner. Data have no value in themselves. The ultimate objective of a health information system is to inform action in the health sector. Performance of such a system should therefore be measured not only on the basis of the quality of the data produced, but also on evidence of the continued use of these data for improving health systems' operations and health status.
The availability and use of information enables:
- improved definition of a population
- recognition of problems
- setting of priorities in the research agenda
- identification of effective and efficient interventions
- determination of potential impact (prediction)
- planning and resource allocation
- monitoring of performance or progress
- evaluation of outcomes after interventions
- continuity in medical and health care
- healthy behaviour in individuals and groups.
It also empowers citizens by enabling their participation in health care, policy and decision processes; and empowers countries and international partners by enabling better transparency and accountability through use of objective and verifiable processes.
Health knowledge gaps are where essential answers on how to improve the health of the people in Lesotho are missing. This is an issue related to the acquisition or generation of health information and research evidence. The “know-do gap” is the failure to apply all existing knowledge to improve people’s health. This is related to the issue of sharing and translation of health information, research evidence, or knowledge. Although there are major structural constraints, the key to narrowing the knowledge gap and sustaining health and development gains is a long-term commitment to strengthen national health information systems.