Capacity Building

The Palestinian experience of enhancing the global health information system DHIS2

DHIS2 is an open-source web based information system developed by the University of Oslo and supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Research Council of Norway, The United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), and The Global Fund. The system is used in over 60 countries, and it allows policy makers and health institutes collect, manage, visualize, analyze, and explore data. At its early stages, the system has been used as a health statistical system only.

In 2014, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH) and PNIPH conducted an assessment of reproductive health information in Palestine. The assessment showed that mother and child health data is neither exchanged between primary and secondary health care providers, nor utilized to inform policy. Consequently, Palestine has been chosen as a pilot country for testing DHIS2, enhancing its features, and configuring it as per the needs of the Palestinian health context. Ultimately, the system was used to build the Palestinian Mother and Child Health (MCH) e-Registry, and used by around 200 MoH Clinics. Furthermore, the Palestinian MCH model of DHIS2 has recently been applied in Bangladesh with some customizations.

As a way of sustaining the MCH e-Registry and building new surveillance systems using DHIS2, PNIPH has partnered with the University of Oslo to form the Palestine Country Team; a group of health data officers, health system officers, IT professionals, and programmers from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and PNIPH.

The main function of the team is to continuously maintain and upgrade current systems in place, customize DHIS2 features to better meet the Palestinian context, and act as DHIS2 ambassadors and experts by sharing knowledge with other health informatics professionals around the world.

In early 2018, DHIS2 experts from the University of Oslo and NIPH started its capacity building program to the country team, aiming to build knowledge and technical expertise in configuring the system. “The direct impact of DHIS2 is improving quality of our health information and services. We started DHIS2 with the MCH module, we are happy about the results, and will adopt DHIS2 as the primary platform for health care in Palestine” said Mr. Ali Al Helou, General Director of the Computer and Engineering Unit at the Palestinian MoH.

The country team of Palestine is currently following the MCH model by customizing DHIS2 to other surveillance systems and registries, including Primary Health Care Statistical Reports, and e-registries of Cause of Death, Cancer, Mammogram, and Road Traffic Accidents and Injury Prevention. The team is making the best use of DHIS2 features being an open-source system that is constantly updated and supported by a wide worldwide community base that come up with regular feature enhancements of the system.