Dr Grace Bediako, a member of the National Development Planning Commission, has called for deliberate steps to address issues of data quality in the country.
She said the state of data completeness, validity, consistency, timeliness and accuracy made it applicable for a specific use; affirming that data informs policy formulation; which would go a long way to help government to improve the quality of life of the citizenry.
“We must ensure that the data challenge in the country is a thing of the past,” she said.
Dr Bediako was speaking in Accra during a panel discussion on the topic: “Data Collection for Health” at the ongoing 67th New Year School and Conference on the theme: “Promoting Universal Health for Sustainable Development in Ghana: Is the Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) the Game Changer”.
She said the day to day activities of the health sector generated lots of data, however, personal records generally has been paper based, making it difficult to compile the individual patient data from face to face medical encounters to help in planning, monitoring and evaluating of the health services.
“But again the real question is how adequate are these sources? Several people have pointed out some of these concerns about the inadequacies of the existing sources; especially with the routine health information systems, not only in Ghana but in much of the developing world,” she said.
“The data are not being analyzed and used effectively for decision making and the data quality is also in question.
“Data collected are generally believed to be incomplete, inadequate and not timely and as a result they are not usually used for the purpose for which it is to serve,” she said.
Dr Bediako, who is a former Government Statistician, said: “One of our challenges is that we have to collate the data from the lowest point to the national level and it is not uncommon to find that when you data, they say data has not come from the district or we need some further permission from above to have them released.”
“There need to be substantial improvement in the computer hardware, software and telecommunications infrastructure at all levels and facilities; if we will be able to get the kind of quality we need.
“When we get to the lowest point, it means all these facilities should also be equipped to compile the data systematically so that transmission can be received,” she said.
“The Ghana Health Service (GHS) has the health management information system alright, but when it comes to birth and death the data, it is sent to the Birth and Death Registry,” she said.
Mr Anthony Amuzu Snr, Acting Deputy Government Statistician (Operations), said ICT can change so many things, adding there is a lot of data available at the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) which could be further analyzed to inform policy decisions in the health sector.
He said the GSS would, therefore, like to encourage researchers who would want to collaborate with it to send in proposals.
Mr Amuzu Snr gave the assurance that the Service would continue to collaborate with agencies and institutions to build capacity in the use of ICT for its activities to enhance data production and dissemination.
Mr Dominic K. Atweam, the Head of Technical Division of the Ghana Health Service, said ICT provides a strong platform for information exchange, allocation and reallocation of services and is a key component for strengthening health systems.
Mr Richard Y. Adiase, the Head of Sales Operations of Airtel Ghana, called for the synchronization of data collection by the GSS and the GHS to avoid duplication of functions.
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