Data to save lives: Improving accuracy, availability and use of the child health record

We at CKS are very proud to support the Gates Foundation  undertake an extensive innovation program to design a context appropriate immunization card for a more documented and regimented practice of Regular Immunization (RI). Skye Gilbert, a wonderful person to work with, the brains behind the program and  Program Officer, Vaccine Delivery at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation writes on the subject for the design public blog!

Most of the problems we encounter in delivering global health services are highly complex, and finding solutions requires us to be visionaries in the fields we work in through thoughtful risk-taking and transformative innovation. But sometimes, when we’re really lucky, we don’t need to be quite so risky or transformative because there is a simple, affordable solution right in front of us. Improving the child health record is one of those simple solutions that could have a dramatic impact if it’s done thoughtfully and well.

In that spirit; we’ve recently launched the Records for Life contest. The contest is part of a broader initiative to think about what we can do today to improve paper-based health information systems in parts of the world where routinely collected data suffers from poor quality, inconsistent/delayed availability and low use. Digital solutions will likely be widespread in the 10-year time frame, if not earlier, but for places that are further away from these solutions, improving the accuracy, availability and use of the child health record could help us reach more un- and under-immunized children in the near- term, and perhaps even facilitate the transition to a fully digital system over time.

The path to impact begins this year. David Brown from UNICEF is collecting national immunization cards from countries all over the world, and building a repository that countries can view to learn more about how others have designed their records. This has already sparked some conversations at Expanded Program in Immunization (EPI) Manager Review meetings in the AFRO region. Hopefully this will incite some EPI managers to ensure that health records are printed and distributed in sufficient volume to ensure that every newborn receives one. To solve for accuracy and card retention, the Records for Life contest will generate a repository of ideas on how changes to the health record design might improve the accuracy of the data recorded, and increase the perceived value among families and health providers. UNICEF, CDC and WHO are all currently shaping operational research to better understand where health records aren’t meeting their full potential within the health information system. All of this will feed into guidelines that WHO will be publishing on the immunization portion of the child health record in 2015.

Finally, and most importantly, we have a unique opportunity to make widespread change to child health records via new vaccine introductions. With each new vaccine introduction, countries reprint their child health records. If global introduction goals are met, that means >100 countries will be re-printing their child health records in 2014/15. We have a unique opportunity to make a simple, effective change to country data systems, and to do it fast. I hope in reading this, you are as excited about the opportunity as I am!

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