Analytical summary - Health information, research, evidence and knowledge
The Malawi Ministry of Health is implementing a comprehensive and decentralized health management information system. It has developed policies, guidelines and procedures for implementing both its facility-based and population-based information systems.
Achievements of the health information system include:
- the availability of data at all levels for planning and decision-making
- availability of policy to provide guidance on the implementation of the system
- implemented capacity-building activities for key health to ensure all health sector staff have the necessary skills.
Despite several achievements, the health management information system still has some weaknesses, including:
- low quality of data in terms of completeness, reliability and timeliness;
- weak linkage between various data sources;
- some vertical programmes continuing to collect and use their own indicators, which are different from those articulated in the health management information system;
- limited data analysis and use of information in the management of health services.
Health information system institutions, human resources and finances are available but are inadequate. The Central Monitoring and Evaluation Division coordinates health information system activities in the country. The Ministry of Health has developed the Malawi Health Sector Strategic Plan 2011–2016, an overall strategy and roadmap for strengthening health information system in Malawi in the next 5 years.
While the country might have adequate policy and legal framework for supporting overall sector development, information and communication technology (ICT) policies and infrastructure to support a national health information system are inadequate. The current state of the telecommunication/network infrastructure in the country represents a significant challenge to the development of, and support for, the national health information system infrastructure. The Ministry of Health does not have an ICT policy or strategy to guide the development and deployment of ICT in the sector to support the national health information system.
A lot of health research is conducted in Malawi. Both local and international institutions and individuals are involved in conducting research. A range of channels and mechanisms are used to disseminate research findings locally, nationally and internationally.
However, there are a number of challenges including:
- absence of legal and policy frameworks to regulate research;
- weak structures and mechanisms for coordination and regulation;
- limited multidisciplinary research, largely due to the lack of highly qualified and experienced indigenous researchers;
- lack of a national health research agenda, which has resulted in neglect of research activities in priority areas;
- limited access to funding for research within Malawi and hence most of the research is externally commissioned and funded with no alignment to national research priorities.
Furthermore, there is poor utilization of research findings for practice and policy formulation due to:
- limited interaction between researchers and potential users of the information
- inappropriate formatting of evidence
- lack of capacity to access research findings and apply evidence.
The country is implementing the Health Research Capacity Strengthening Initiative to address these challenges.