Data for the management of healthcare is one of the key pillars in achieving effective healthcare delivery, for the simple reason that it comes in handy in tracking a range of indicators that influence health in the communities.  When communities are empowered to capture data to gain insights into important health issues such as HIV, they can also develop effective community programs and policies that can address various factors that ultimately affect their health positively.

The National AIDS Control Council (NACC) has embarked on training of the communities of practice in various project localities with an objective of introducing and training the communities on the new online data collection tool which uses the Open Data Kit (ODK) approach. The application which can be downloaded directly on the android phone  allows data collection and submission to the online server located at the NACC headquarters. The training which took place in Mbita and Ndhiwa sub-counties in Homa bay County between January 24 – 27, 2022 brought together Fisherfolks and Boda boda operators communities who immensely benefitted from this cutting age technology.

NACC has been coordinating the LISTEN process in Kiambu and Homa bay Counties with support from Center for Global Health Practice and Impact (CGHPI) of Georgetown University and Bill and Melinda Gates since 2019. The Human Centered Design (HCD) technical support is being provided by Final Mile – a fractal company.

The online reporting tool moves from paper-based reporting, commonly referred to as flat files, to online data reporting that comes with ease and convenience with the technical backstopping provided by the NACC. The tool has a provision for adjustment making it flexible and adaptable at any given time to suit the specific objectives with indicators of the programs that the communities of practice intend to run on the ground.

Teenage pregnancies continue to be on the rise in Homa bay county.  According to the 2020 HIV estimates, Homabay county has a prevalence of 18.5%, with 135,977 people living with HIV.  Currently, teenage pregnancies reported in Ndhiwa sub-county stand at 2,144  and  1,133 for Mbita sub-county.  The number of new HIV infections among adolescents and young people between 20-24 years is high, with 16,474 reported in the 2020 HIV estimates.

Apart from the health issues that the community of practice have identified and prioritized,  economic empowerment, insecurity and lack of training for the boda boda riders that were the cause of many  traffic accidents have also been incorporated in the list of issues to be addressed in order to attain social and health growth and development.  These issues inform some of the indicators that are being tracked in the online data tool.

Through the LISTEN process, the communities of practice identify their problems which are then linked to respective government agencies such as the health care service delivery, county security structures and trade departments.  Previously, programs were prescriptive and were taken to the community with little or no involvement of the people, making it difficult for communities to embrace and be part of these programs a phenomenon which  hampered their chances of success and sustainability.  The LISTEN process uses a participatory approach that seeks to change the community members’ mindset in addressing community problems while strengthening the Communities of Practice networks both horizontally and vertically across the model.

With the introduction of the new online data collection tool, it is expected that  the gaps in data collection process will be addressed and eventually improve the quality of data.. One of the challenges in enhancing data management at the community levels has been lack of proper data collection and usage mechanisms that has made  it difficult to access and utilize available within and across communities of practice.

Vincent Odongo Ogolla, a member of the fisherfolk community of practice in Mfangano Island in Homabay county since the inception of the LISTEN process in 2019,  could not hide his joy on the online reporting tool, terming it as a game-changer.  “The introduction of the new online reporting tool is a gamechanger in boosting data reporting.  The previous reporting tool was expensive and cumbersome since we moved around with paper, and the hard part was transporting data from the island to the mainland, which is costly and time-consuming.  We can now use the online reporting tool to report data at any time and  conveniently,” he says.

The online reporting tool will address health data efforts that exist informally today by providing a common structure and set of standards that will greatly improve its utility.

A group photo of communities of practice from Mbita sub-county who were trained on the online collection data tool

A group photo of communities of practice from Ndhiwa sub-county who were trained on the online collection data tool