Data quality assessments (DQA) have long been used in public health campaigns, but have been a relatively new tool used for NTD programs. As national NTD programs look toward elimination, the importance of data verification and strong reporting systems are essential in confirming the eligibility of districts for disease specific assessments, but ultimately for the verification of elimination.
The DQA guidelines and tool allow national NTD programs to engage in critical assessment of data accuracy and reliability, particularly as it relates to program planning. Using the DQA results, national NTD programs are able to make improvements to the data collection and reporting for NTDs.
In January, RTI International and Helen Keller International worked with the Cameroon National NTD Program to complete the first Francophone field-test of the data quality assessment protocol for NTDs. Together, the group identified strengths and weaknesses of Cameroon’s data management system to determine strategies for strengthening the quality of NTD data reported nationally and internationally.
The data quality assessment was completed in 18 villages across three districts in Cameroon – each of which is supported by a different NGO partner. The DQA activities focused on assessing data reported from fiscal year 2013 surrounding community-based treatment of lymphatic filariasis, onchocerciasis, trachoma and soil-transmitted helminthiases. The assessment verified reported results in comparison with recounted values for 5 indicators at the village, health area, district, regional and national levels as well as interviews with individuals directly involved in the data compilation and reporting.
The Cameroon National NTD Program was enthusiastic about the process, identifying considerable opportunities for improved reporting and coordination within the country. Based on the findings, an action plan will be developed with recommended actions to address areas that need strengthening. At the request of the Ministry of Health, the process may also be utilized in the future to assess school-based distribution for schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminthiases.
The Data Quality Assessment protocol was developed by RTI International as part of the ENVISION project, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO). Cameroon is the third field test and first Francophone pilot of the DQA, the experiences from which will be used to produce the final guidelines and tool. It is anticipated that the final DQA guidelines and tool will be included in WHO’s M&E Toolkit for NTDs. Use of the DQA guidelines and tool will be rolled out across many countries supported by the ENVISION project during fiscal year 2014, representing a strong commitment to data quality and reporting throughout the USAID NTD portfolio.