Workshop on assessing health information systems (HIS) and strengthening national HIS strategies in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

WHO

Health information is essential for tracking the health situation in any country, and for understanding whether policies have a desired impact. The national HIS is the source of such information. Together with the Ministry of Health of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, WHO delivered a workshop on assessing the national HIS and using this knowledge to plan strategic actions for strengthening it.

On 16–17 May 2017, 30 participants met in Skopje to discuss the WHO approach to a comprehensive assessment of the national HIS. This was based on the WHO Support tool to assess national health information systems and develop and strengthen health information strategies.

Together they discussed the 6 components of the HIS: a legislative basis for the exchange of information, indicator frameworks, data sources, data quality, data management processes, and forms of information dissemination and their use in policy-making. Participants reflected on local examples and learned from international experience. This brought new insight into the current health information flows in the country, and resulted in proposals on how to strengthen the national HIS.

“We hope that with this workshop we have initiated an open dialogue for strengthening the national HIS. We have many challenges ahead, and we look forward to WHO support in strengthening the HIS in our country,” said Dr Jovanka Kostovska, State Advisor from the Ministry of Health.

The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a new member of the European Health Information Initiative (EHII). EHII aims to harmonize health information in the WHO European Region.

“The discussions at the workshop reflect the hard work and commitment of public health authorities and health-care workers to integrate and use the health information in the country,” said Ms Tina Dannemann Purnat, acting Programme Manager for Health Information, Monitoring and Analysis within the Division of Information, Research, Evidence and Innovation at WHO/Europe. “Seeking to better understand the situation through a workshop like this is an important element of success in the future. Through the activities of EHII, WHO will further support the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to follow up on the outcomes of the workshop.”

Participants included representatives from the Ministry of Health; the National Public Health Institute; the Institute of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Medical Informatics; the Public Health Centre in Skopje; the Health Insurance Fund; the State Statistical Office; the Association of Specialists in Family Medicine; and the national health policy think tank Studiorum. Observers from public health institutions in Kosovo (in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 [1999]) and the WHO Office in Pristina also took part and shared their experiences.

Participants agreed that there is great potential for improving the ways in which the Ministry of Health manages health information across the whole of government. This will involve working with other ministries and stakeholders to advance good practice and international standards on health information. They identified the following future actions for strengthening the country’s HIS:

  • establishing a national working group on HIS within the Ministry of Health;
  • implementing self-assessments of the functioning of the national HIS; and
  • developing a national HIS strategy within the National Health 2020 Strategy.

HIS are crucial for monitoring public health in the country and for providing reliable and up-to-date health information for policy-makers, stakeholders and the broader public. Specialized data collections – such as those on disease surveillance, environment and health, noncommunicable diseases, health determinants and lifestyle (for example, alcohol and tobacco use) – are also increasingly important, especially for reporting to international organizations and monitoring frameworks. These include Health 2020, the Sustainable Development Goals and the WHO Global Monitoring Framework for Noncommunicable Diseases.