Autumn School brings health information and evidence for policy into sharp focus

WHO/Damir Begović

“I learned about tools and good practice that can be used to bring health information and evidence closer to policy-making,” said Nevenka Pavlović, Assistant Director of the Institute of Public Health of Belgrade, echoing the sentiments of many of the participants who took part in the Autumn School on Health Information and Evidence for Policy-making on 23–27 October in Tbilisi, Georgia. “I am excited and encouraged by this opportunity to gain more knowledge and learn from the experience of other countries and from WHO, which could contribute significantly to strengthening the Serbian health information system,” she added.

Practical knowledge and skills

This firm endorsement of the Autumn School, as a course that gives participants practical knowledge and skills to take home, was also expressed by Françoise Berthet, Chief of the Division of Curative Care and Quality of Health at the Luxembourg Ministry of Health. “In our daily work, it sometimes feels like we are driving a car blind, looking through a rear-mirror, having to inform policy with incomplete or outdated information. I came to the course wanting to know more about how to ensure that I can use the right and relevant information to help the policy-makers make their decisions. This course answered many of my questions, and connected me with colleagues across Europe,” she said.

Hosted by the Ministry of Health of Georgia

The 5 day Autumn School was hosted by Georgia’s Ministry of Health. In her opening address, the Deputy Minister, Nino Berdzuli said: “We are very happy that this Autumn School on Health Information and Evidence for Policy-making is taking place in Georgia for a number of reasons. First, we recognize and can demonstrate that health information is fundamentally important for development of policies and strategies. The Universal Health Care Programme was introduced by the Government of Georgia in 2013. It has made remarkable progress in the advancement and performance of the health system and financial protection of the Georgian population. The data collected through the information systems that serve this programme is regularly analysed to follow the implementation of the UHC programme, target health inequities and address health service delivery issues, among many others. The birth registry that was launched in 2015 collects all information about pregnancy and delivery and newborn care and is used to assess the maternal and child health situation in the country. The data generated through the birth registry helped us to develop the strategy for caesarean section reduction, and link indicators generated through the birth registry to the health-care facilities contracting mechanism, based on quality.

Second, we are very interested in supporting health information initiatives, of which capacity-building exercises are an important part. The Autumn School, the flagship training course of WHO Europe, is a unique opportunity to focus on such capacity-building of national stakeholders”.

The 22 participants from 10 Member States gave overwhelmingly positive feedback about the course. Participants all work at the interface of data analysis, research/knowledge integration and policy and were able to get practical insights and solutions for improving national health information systems.

The Autumn School will be followed by a continuation advanced course early next year, when the participants will come together again to drill down deeper into topics they have chosen through discussions at the Autumn School.

Exceeding expectations

Dr Claudia Stein, Director of WHO Europe’s Division of Information, Evidence, Research and Innovation said the Autumn School’s fifth year had once again exceeded expectations.

“The Autumn School is the flagship course of the Regional Office and has been taking place annually for the past 5 years. It is one of the main capacity-building events under the umbrella of the European Health Information Initiative. It was a resounding success and we were again impressed and encouraged by the animated participation of all those who took part. I am convinced that the skills that have been gained and the professional relationships that have been forged will translate into better use of health information and evidence in policy-making. This will in turn lead to real improvements in health for the people of the European Region. We are very grateful to Georgia’s Ministry of Health who hosted the event. We look forward to next year’s Autumn School when we will be hosted by the Netherlands.”