Thoughts from the Last Mile Welcome to the VillageReach Blog

Tag Archives: data collection

10.03 2016

untitled-design-2Simple ideas can be powerful – a point driven home during my recent trip to Uganda. While I was there, I had the opportunity to tour the Ugandan national medical stores, where medicines for the entire country are warehoused. The head of sales and marketing showed me how each and every commodity that the Government of Uganda procures is marked as a way to safeguard against theft. Every layer of packaging is embossed: “GOVERNMENT OF UGANDA. PUBLIC USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE.” Even individual tablets are marked “UG.” The government builds this requirement into its procurement contracts with suppliers. I walked away completely floored. What a simple yet brilliant idea to solve a persistent supply chain problem.

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08.17 2016

One hundred and thirty minutes. That’s just over two hours. It’s a long time to wait to see a doctor no matter where you are in the world. Then after waiting for two hours, patients talk to a healthcare provider for less than 2 minutes – 140 seconds – before they are back out the door. These are the average times spent waiting for and with healthcare providers in a rural health center in Malawi, where a recent study examined the flow of patients to help uncover opportunities for improvement.

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07.13 2016

If someone asked me “what’s a van?” in the US, I’d probably say a big-ish vehicle meant to efficiently move people and stuff from point A to point B. In Africa, these large people movers are called minibuses, kombis or any of a hundred other terms, except van. So when someone asks me about “VAN” in the African context, it means something very different. VAN is an acronym for “Visibility and Analytics Network.” In Nigeria, where VillageReach is working on the VAN project, it represents a new, more holistic approach to vaccine delivery and achieving a healthy, functioning supply chain. Though our VAN doesn’t have four wheels, it’s still purposefully designed to move things around more efficiently.

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12.22 2015

In response to this article by Dr. Mahad Ibrahim on the role of data during the Ebola outbreak, some interesting questions were sparked among our team. The piece evoked a lot of great insights about the opportunities and challenges the piece addresses, as well as how we see those topics evidenced in our VillageReach work. This topic is of particular interest to us, as we and our partners at the University of Washington are actively developing and testing an open-source tool for paper to digital data conversion, ODK Scan.

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10.12 2015

The UN Commission for Life-Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC)Atelier d’échange: Pratiques et ressources pour améliorer l’accès aux treize produits vitaux pour la santé des femmes et des enfants(in English, “Workshop to Promote Exchange on Practices and Resources to Increase Access to the 13 Life-Saving Commodities for Women’s and Children’s Health”) on took place last month in Dakar, Senegal. The workshop was made possible through a collaboration between the UNCoLSC and Securité Contraceptive en Afrique Francophone (SECONAF, the regional forum for Francophone Africa of the Reproductive Health Supply Chain Coalition), and followed the SECONAF Annual Meeting.

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04.07 2015

Improving Data for Management of the Vaccine Cold Chain in Mozambique

Last week I was spending a lot of time with my colleague from UNICEF/Mozambique to create a distribution plan for  new cold chain equipment procured and funded by UNICEF. This is a great opportunity for the country to strengthen the cold chain to ensure vaccines are available and potent all the way to the last mile of delivery.

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02.09 2015

VillageReach, in collaboration with D-tree, is proud to announce the implementation of a new mHealth application in Malawi. What an exciting partnership! During the first week of February 2015, 25 health surveillance assistants (HSAs), nurses and other health workers in Balaka District received intensive training on smartphone technology and the capabilities of a new maternal and neonatal health (MNH) assessment application developed by D-tree. Using smartphones to improve the assessment of pregnant women and their children will increase access to health care and improve the quality of care provided in rural villages.

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12.04 2014

The Role of Data Collection and One Community’s Path Toward Change

While working on the Kwitanda Community Health Project (KCHP), based in the Kwitanda catchment area, Balaka District, in southern Malawi, I have seen firsthand how critical the role of data collection is to improving health outcomes. In this rural and remote setting, the news of a maternal death spreads quickly, but quietly, almost like a rumor or story. “Did you hear? Another mother died in childbirth in that village. Another neonatal death occurred last week.” It is difficult to understand the causes of the death, or how often they occur because little information is collected and reported on these events.

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07.10 2014

BerturBy Bertur Alface
Medical Chief of Gaza Province in Mozambique
Reposted from Impatient


Change does not come easily, particularly to systems that have been operating in a specific way for a long time and where many people have a stake in the decision making. But sometimes it becomes clear that change is necessary to improve how things operate.

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04.23 2013

We often cite the challenges we see in determining optimal approaches to strengthening health systems, many of which are due to the lack of current data about the health of communities and the performance of the health system. This critical gap in useful data to inform better decision making led us to form the Information Systems Group (ISG) at VillageReach, charged with developing new innovations and approaches in information communications technology (ICT).

In many cases, the reporting and requisitioning of medical commodities in low-income countries has been driven by paper-based processes. These are labor intensive, and prone to communication delays and human errors, openLMIS-logobut remain the accepted practice in areas with minimal ICT infrastructure. Today, however, communication networks are being deployed in a growing number of rural communities in low-income countries, making the broad-scale deployment of an electronic logistics management information system (LMIS) not only practical but inevitable.

To address this opportunity, a significant amount of our work in ISG is focused on OpenLMIS, a collaborative, community-focused initiative to create an open source electronic LMIS for health commodity supply chains in low-income countries. With a growing number of partners, the initiative is focused on meeting our goal of designing, developing, and sharing open source software, tools and methodologies, from which Internet-enabled LMIS can be developed and customized for country deployments.

With OpenLMIS, we see the opportunity to enable ministries of health and their partners to improve their replenishment process, but also to gain access to critical information that contributes to optimal decision-making – this ranges from the facility manager at a health center who wants to submit a requisition, to a packing clerk at the warehouse who needs to fill an order, as well as related stakeholders who want real-time visibility into how well the supply chain is performing. With that greater amount of information at their disposal, we expect healthcare administrators to be able to make more accurate and timely decisions that improve health system performance, including limiting stock outs of essential medicines and vaccines, and reducing interruptions in service delivery due to stock shortages and health worker absences.

The OpenLMIS collaboration has made significant progress in software development over the past few months:

  • With our partners, we have developed a detailed set of requirements for a new electronic LMIS that can be customized, configured and deployed in multiple countries.
  • The first phase of software development has been completed, providing a core platform for future development of deployable LMIS solutions.
  • Development has started on the second phase – a general but configurable system that includes features and functionality needed to meet basic LMIS requirements. A number of countries and financial supporters have expressed strong interest in deploying the solution.

In addition to these software development milestones, the OpenLMIS community itself is expanding. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, PATH, and USAID are providing essential funding for the initiative, and John Snow Inc., PATH, and the Tanzania and Zambia ministries of health are contributing valuable input to define requirements and functionality for the solution. Management Sciences for Health (MSH) has also recently joined the initiative.

We’re very excited about the new phase of work we’ve started and look forward to releasing updates later in the year. For those interested in more detailed tracking of OpenLMIS’ progress, please visit the OpenLMIS Repository regularly for updates.

Ron Pankiewicz
Technology Director &
Group Lead, Information Systems Group

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