How Pathfinder will use geospatial data and machine learning to develop more effective reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health programs in Nigeria
Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and has the third highest burden of maternal mortality in the world. Across the country, insufficient data tracking and poorly resourced health centers lead to poor reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health (RMNCH) outcomes. But a new project at Pathfinder is aiming to change that by using geospatial data to help communities, health workers, and the government fill the gaps.
Ultimately, the project seeks to improve access to care, quality of services, and care-seeking to ensure all women and children receive critical, high-impact interventions that are evidence-based, irrespective of where they live or their socioeconomic status. To do this, Pathfinder is building on existing work in Nigeria that has helped to achieve an increase in immunization coverage across the country.
Reaching every ward
In December 2004, Nigeria adapted the World Health Organization’s Reaching Every District approach to its own country context as “Reaching Every Ward.” This strategy aimed to have regular, effective, quality, and sustainable routine immunization activities in every ward through two major approaches: localized microplanning, or health facility work planning, with geographic information system (GIS) mapping of areas served by healthcare facilities to better inform health care decisions and streamlining health facility processes and requests.
After conducting an extensive review of existing microplanning efforts and geospatial data use, Pathfinder and partners are adapting this approach and applying it to RMNCH and nutrition services in Nigeria.
Geo-enabled digital microplanning in practice
Pathfinder is pulling disparate data from service delivery, health facility locations, catchment areas, settlements, and local expertise to support bespoke improvement plans.
“Microplanning,” says Country Director Dr. Amina Dorayi, “is basically a work planning process that starts with each health facility. Each facility will undertake its microplanning process, and Pathfinder will then help collate the information and develop state plans. We then work with facilities to integrate our knowledge of geospatial data, train them on how to integrate it into their facility’s data. This will help us ‘geocode’ our health facilities, understanding what their resources are – staff capacity, infrastructure, and finance – and paint a fuller picture of what we need in order to better support RNMCH outcomes.”
The theory is simple: if geospatial data, maps, and tools for RMNCH microplanning efforts are available, and utilized, it will help Pathfinder to:
- Increase the number of people reached through facility outreach plans and using RMNCH services at local facilities.
- Optimize resource distribution through location identification and equitable coverage, improving uptake of quality RMNCH services.
- Strengthen the health system and service delivery through better planning, monitoring, and tracking of RMNCH activities.
Information will ‘trickle down’ to staff at the local levels, including facility-based health workers who can easily interact with the complex data analytics engine and receive instant insights. This includes insights on coordinates in a geo-enabled microplan, community hotline statistics and other insights in the form of text, videos, audio and images. This “snackable” data interface simplifies decision-making at the last mile and eliminates the need for expert-level data analytics or data interpretation skills.
Building in sustainability
Pathfinder and its partners are working with government and other relevant stakeholders to ensure that decision makers and health workers will have the required skills, competencies, and capacities to sustain the activities and build on project successes.
As the project moves forward, Pathfinder will implement a knowledge management platform that will incorporate content and curricula serving as a guide to drive adoption on a larger scale, both within Nigeria, and globally. More than this, Pathfinder is committed to prioritizing use of publicly accessible datasets and existing states’ datasets (like state health registries, and DHIS2). Pathfinder prioritizes the Principles for Digital Development, and will focus on an open-source framework that will both deliver the program at scale and ensure ownership and adoption states and health facilities to generate maps1.
 Personal details or other details such as phone numbers, addresses or emails will be anonymized and redacted out of the datasets so as not to infringe on existing data privacy acts.