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Innovations in Monitoring Vital Events:Mobile Phone SMS Support to Improve Coverage of Birth and Death Registration: A Scalable Solution

Kabadi, G. , Mwanyika, H. and Savigny, D. d. (2013) Innovations in Monitoring Vital Events:Mobile Phone SMS Support to Improve Coverage of Birth and Death Registration: A Scalable Solution. Working Paper. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

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Civil Registration (CR) of births and deaths is an essential component of any health information system.
Globally, across low income countries, CR suffers from unacceptably poor quality coverage. This Health
Information Systems Knowledge Hub (HIS Hub) working paper summarises and reports the results, conclusions and outlook from a small six-month project that investigated the potential of introducing a mobile phone step into the routine CR system in a rural district in Tanzania. The project developed a computer application that could receive SMS messages—from existing basic mobile phones of community-based CR officers—and feed them directly to the District Registrar’s office and computer. The message contained the details from the birth or death notification form. The system provided instant access to notifications and automatic feedback to the Village Executive Officer (VEO) if the family that experienced the birth or death event failed to register the event for certification. It also prompted the VEO to follow up with the family by conducting a questionnaire, administered by mobile phone, to determine and communicate the reasons for the non-registration. The District Civil Registrar was also able to monitor trends in these notifications via a user-friendly webbased browser and dashboard. The system was tested for six months and validated against an independent prospective household surveillance system that monitors pregnancies, births and deaths in the same period. In summary, the findings showed that the routine CR system notified only 28% of total births in the period. Adding the SMS step increased this to 51% of births. The routine CR system notified only 2.1% of deaths in the period. Adding the SMS step increased this to 14% of deaths. The SMS step therefore made significant improvements in the notification step (and modest improvements in the registration step) of routine CR. However, both notifications and registrations still fell well short of reality at community level. The most important finding of this pilot is that the current CR system in at least the study district, and likely in most of rural Tanzania, is essentially unable to provide adequate registration coverage for births and deaths, and that coverage is so low that even log order improvements are insufficient to lift it to satisfactory levels (in excess of 90%). This, as yet, says nothing regarding the quality of the data. No overwhelming reason is provided by families for the low reporting rate, suggesting that the problems are highly systemic and will need a radical redesign of CR processes to solve. To the extent that similar problems prevail in other low-income countries, it is clear that whatever these processes will be, some form of scalable real-time mobile communication such as SMS will greatly facilitate coverage levels. This pilot shows
that such technology is feasible. But these results also emphasise the need for an end-to-end overhaul of the
architecture and processes of how CR systems are built and integrated into the information fabric of a country. Small incremental technical fixes will not suffice

Item Type: Report (Working Paper)
Keywords: Civil Registration, Birth, Death, Information System, low income countries, Tanzania
Subjects: Health Systems > Health Information systems
Divisions: Ifakara Health Institute > Health Systems
Depositing User: Mr Joseph Madata
Date Deposited: 13 Nov 2013 05:34
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2013 05:34

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