Using Data for Decision Making at Every Level
Every day, in a remote, but densely populated village in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, Masreshah Abebe strives to improve the health of her community. As one of four certified health extension workers at her health post, Masreshah routinely walks from one end of her village to the other—trips that can take more than an hour each way—to deliver sexual and reproductive health information and other basic health services to her clients.
"When I first started," she said, "women were a voiceless group. Few used family planning. Today, that is changing."
Masreshah can see the difference, not only in her visits, but in the data she and her team collect.
"I track the number of women who use family planning," Masreshah said proudly. "There has been real increase in use of contraception since I came here four years ago."
As part of the Integrated Family Health Program, led by Pathfinder International and funded by USAID, Masreshah and her fellow health extension workers provide sexual and reproductive health information and services to more than 1,700 households. While visiting with these families, Masreshah collects data, which she reviews during weekly meetings with her district supervisor.
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This quantitative information is critical to informing not only Masreshah's decisions—and those of her team—but decisions at every level within Pathfinder programs around the world. Whether collected through our robust data collection system or with the help of local government or implementing partners, Pathfinder data are used to identify successes or areas of need, and much more.
For example, by monitoring the number of requests she receives for a particular contraceptive, as well as the number of women who are currently using it, Masreshah can help prevent a "stock out." She compares those numbers to the health posts' supply, ensuring she orders enough contraceptives for the women who depend on them. This is critical as, a one-day stock out can leave a woman without her regular contraceptive and can result in unintended pregnancy.
"Data should not live, untouched, in spreadsheets," said Patricia David, Director of Research and Metrics. "At Pathfinder, evidence influences what we do."
Pathfinder staff, whether in remote regions of Ethiopia or at our headquarters in the United States, use data every day to track and evaluate our efforts. Like Masreshah, this helps all of our teams adjust activities in response to what we find and avert problems—like stock outs—before they arise. In short, data lead to better, more effective programs and to stronger results.