Data Access Barriers
Upon visiting various clinics in Kinshasa serving a large number of women and children, where we intended on providing a laptop at the delivery rooms area to implement our project, we were quickly made aware of many barriers have already been identified locally in terms of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) providing adequate maternal, newborns and child health care services, which impacts patient management and data collection:
· Lost to Follow up - Most maternal health clinics are decentralized from the main hospitals, therefore, most women give birth at the smaller community-based clinics but those with complications or diseases that can be harmful to child bearing, are told to go to the general hospital for delivery and treatment. There is no communication between smaller clinics and large hospitals to see if patients have gone from one site to the other, this makes it difficult to track the progress of women and newborns health progress.
· Shortage of Skilled Birth Attendants – Despite the large population in the Democratic Republic of Congo, there is a shortage of human resources readily available to be trained and compensated for child delivery or assisting women facing complication when giving birth. Consequently, there is an exacerbated number of women who need assistance giving birth, but not enough staff members to assist them. Yet again, the exact data to argue for this, is not always collected.
· Un-Quantified Data – The issue with the shortage of rigorous maternal, newborns and child health data in the Democratic Republic of Congo is not a matter of lack of data, instead, it is a matter of data being collected on paper after each patient visit, and that data is archieved and never analyzed. This makes it hard for clinics and hospitals delivering services to women, to know if their efforts are effective; the prevalence of disease burden among women; statistics of under 5 years old children birth weight (malnutrition indicator). Local clinicians in the DRC, have expressed their lack of understanding the importance of health data usage.
For Stats Congo to become a source of rigorous Congolese database that informs research and policy efforts tackling maternal and child health, we are attempting to capture these gaps in a quantifiable manner, while regularly assessing these efforts.