A stakeholder forum organised by GIZ provided an opportunity for the County Health Department and health sector partners in Vihiga County to reflect on their current work and to begin planning for the coming five years.
The County Health Management Team (CHMT) in Vihiga is responsible for ensuring that the approximately 610,000 residents of Vihiga County have access to good quality health services. It oversees the work of some 600 staff, including health workers employed at more than 40 public health facilities spread across the county. It also monitors progress towards the achievement of health sector goals and sets priorities for the future.
For the CHMT to fulfil these responsibilities it needs to be well informed not only about the health situation in the county, but also about the activities of dozens of partner organisations which are active in the health sector in Vihiga. On February 6, 2018, GIZ’s Health Sector Programme organised a one-day stakeholder forum which brought together the Minister of Health for Vihiga County, the County Director of Health, other members of the CHMT and representatives from 20 partner organisations to exchange information about their work with the goal of improving efficiency and better coordinating their efforts.
A look at where things stand: reviewing health sector performance
The meeting began with a presentation about health status in the county. Drawing upon data from 2017, Mr Amboso of the CHMT provided an overview of the main causes of mortality and morbidity in the county and pointed to some of the factors contributing to observed heath patterns. The brief discussion of trends in population health helped the partner organisations present to better understand the county’s main health challenges, where their activities could add the most value, and which areas still require support.
Minister of Health: Use data as the starting point for improving health
In his comments to participants at the forum, the new County Minister for Health, Dr Amos Kutwa, honed in on the importance of health data as a springboard for change.
Kenya’s District Health Information System (DHIS) contains a wealth of valuable information which health facilities can use to monitor and improve their performance. But, as Dr. Kutwa pointed out, the DHIS is only effective when the information entered into it is correct and complete, and when the data itself are accessed and used. ‘Data shouldn’t only stay in headquarters,’ he said. ‘They need to be spread and used in the right way.’ He urged every facility to take its reporting and data use responsibilities seriously, and to actively ‘come up with solutions’ to the challenges facing the health sector.
Partner organisations share their experiences
Thirteen different partner organisations, including GIZ, Amref, Global Implementation Solutions, Tupima Kaunti and UNICEF briefly presented their main activities in the county. This led to a lively exchange among partner organisations, who valued the chance to discuss one another’s work in depth.
For members of the CHMT this overview of current and planned interventions was both useful and timely. This is because the CHMT intends to establish a series of technical working groups in key thematic areas in the near future. After listening to the partners’ presentations, CHMT members now have a better idea of which organisations should be invited to join which technical groups.
An eye on the future: towards a new five-year strategic plan
Vihiga County’s current health strategic plan ends in 2018 and the process of developing a new five-year plan will soon get underway. A 15-member group comprising members of the CHMT and representatives from Vihiga’s sub-counties has been tasked with preparing a first draft of the new strategy. Partner organisations at the stakeholder forum expressed their willingness to contribute as needed.
Stakeholder forum will now be held on a quarterly basis
The stakeholder forum was a big success and clearly highlighted the benefit that regular coordination meetings would bring. Such gatherings can help to open up lines of communication, to prevent unnecessary duplication of effort, and to foster technical collaboration between different types of actors.
Based on this positive experience, the CHMT agreed that in the future the stakeholder forum should be held on a quarterly basis. The new technical working groups will be integrated into the programme for the next meeting.