Grenada Benefits from District Health Information System Initiative

The Records Room at the Ministry of Health © GIZ/Laura Scheske

Grenadian healthcare providers are reaping the benefits of a Health Information System developed by Oslo University and designed to improve disease surveillance by identifying, reporting and mapping disease trends.

The digital-based tool known as District Health Information System (DHIS-2), is intended to improve health information and disease surveillance operations, by preparing the country to better plan and respond to climate-related health risks.

A team of healthcare providers and managers was recently trained to use the system which has been installed in health centres across the island. The initiative is in line with Grenada’s climate change and health initiatives.

The comprehensive training exercise was completed over a 3-week period for 10 trainers/health managers and 17 nurses, from 15 May to 2 June 2017. The training was conducted by a team of international experts from Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the University of Oslo, working closely with a core team from the Ministry of Health.

Laura Scheske, Project Coordinator, GIZ said, “When I first came to Grenada in 2016 to update a climate and health vulnerability and adaptation assessment, I was not able to find any data older than 2004. Why? Hurricane Ivan had flooded and destroyed the storage room where the old registers were being kept. I realised that before starting complex programmes on climate and health, we needed to improve data collection by fully digitalising the health information system – DHIS-2 provided the perfect solution for Grenada.“

According to officials, this new system marks an important milestone in the Ministry of Health’s efforts to digitise our health system particularly towards a climate-resilient health system.

Discussing reporting formats with a community nurse at a medical station © GIZ / Laura Scheske

Dr Shawn Charles, Chief Epidemiologist said, “Last Friday we went to the field and visited a medical station. What we saw was that 1 nurse had to take care of more than 10 registry books at a time. And at the end of the month, she has to go through all entries, calculate them together and report the data in an aggregated manner. With DHIS-2 we are able to replace all these books by a single form.”

Experts believe that with rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and more frequent extreme weather events, there is a great possibility of an increase in vector-borne communicable diseases, such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Zika, and Yellow Fever as well as a rise in respiratory infections.

With the implementation of DHIS-2, the Ministry of Health in partnership with GIZ and the University of Oslo, hope to enhance the country’s capacity to identify and respond to future outbreaks and epidemics.

Pauline Peters, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Social Security and International Business, said “DHIS-2 provides a faster, more accurate analysis of data to improve our response and planning in the health sector.”

The District Health Information System (DHIS-2), is an open-source online tool that has been developed and made available freely by the University of Oslo, Norway. DHIS-2 can identify and report trends and can be mapped with the click of a button vector-borne/climate sensitive diseases. DHIS-2 is dubbed a versatile solution for linking health, vector and climate data; and it is already in use in 47 countries worldwide.

Paper-based forms are digitised as part of customising DHIS-2 © GIZ / Laura Scheske

In 2015, the GIZ conducted a Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment, which enabled the Ministry of Health to identify measures to build up climate resilience in the health sector. One of the main recommendations was to strengthen the country’s health information and disease surveillance system to improve the health system’s capacity to plan for and respond to climate-related health risks, by the implementation of DHIS-2.

Meanwhile, the move is largely seen as strengthening of ties between the governments of Grenada and Germany to improve the health information and disease surveillance system of the Grenadian health ministry. The project is funded by; the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) through the global health programme “Adaptation to climate change in the Health Sector.”

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