DevInfo Support Group (DSG): We know you had been working to eradicate polio in the Indian state Uttar Pradesh, usingPolioComms Info1 as a tool to support your work. Now you’ve shifted your focus to fighting the same battle in the state of Bihar. Could you describe the availability and quality of polio data in Bihar when you arrived?
Dr. Saumya Anand (SA): When I joined the Bihar team in August 2010, the first thing I noticed immediately was that just as in Uttar Pradesh (UP) before the introduction of PolioComms Info, the use of data was very limited in Bihar. There was a lot of data being generated, but very little of it was being used.
So one of the first things we had to do was to schedule a series of workshops for polio field workers at the district, block and village levels on how to use data for planning – basically, teaching them what is evidence-based planning.
After these workshops are completed, we then plan to launch PolioComms Info trainings as well as train block-level workers on how to usedata profilesfor planning purposes.
DSG: Based on your experience with implementing PolioComms Info in UP, what are your expectations for its rollout in Bihar?
SA: Currently, we have limited expectations because of infrastructure constraints in Bihar such as lack of electricity and lack of computers.
Even so, we expect that at least the district headquarters and sub-regional staff should be able to use the printed data profiles to start with, even when they don’t have electricity. That itself would be a big step ahead of the current situation.
As I mentioned earlier, up until now, data was collected and shared from the field to the state government, but it was not being used for planning. Our vision is that with the introduction
DSG: You’ve already analyzed a lot of field data, as a precursor to rolling out PolioComms Info in Bihar. Has your initial analysis led to any changes in programme strategy?
SA: Yes! In fact, many of the polio programme strategies in Bihar were originally borrowed and copied from UP, without anyone recognizing that the data from these two states reveal two very different situations and therefore require two very different strategies. For example, in UP, almost 80 percent of polio cases occur in the minority community, so the main strategy was focused on how to reach that particular population. In contrast, only about one-fourth of polio cases in Bihar occur in the minority community, which therefore requires a very different strategy.
DSG: When the PolioComms Info profiles were first introduced to field officers in UP, what was their reaction?
SA: Initially, there was a sort of disbelief that there could be this much data out there to be analyzed! This was because the field officers had never seen this type of data presented before. In fact, in several instances they were not willing to accept the reported fact that their area showed low full immunization levels, because polio immunization levels in their areas were high.
But after some time and with more training, they grew more comfortable with these profiles and started using them to plan increased routine immunization campaigns. And sure enough, as time passed, full immunization levels started improving, in response to these data-driven interventions.
DSG: One of the main goals of PolioComms Info is to get data collected from the field, back to the field as soon as possible. How quickly can this happen, given the large volume of data involved?
SA: By the time we complete a round of polio immunizations, within a week we have to start planning for the next round. As a result, we have
Bijendra Kumar (BK): Formerly, whenever we received data from the field, it was very difficult to analyze each and every indicator and to create maps, tables and graphs from the data. As a result, field workers were unable to get timely access to this data.
But now I feel that with the introduction of this project, it will be feasible for us to update the existing master databases within seven to ten days. We should then be able to create profiles for all the districts and blocks, and then forward them to the field workers at these levels, who will then be able to use them to analyze their performance and identify areas for improvement in the next polio immunization round.
Data making a difference.
For more information, please contact Dr. Saumya Anand, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, UNICEF Bihar (Polio Division) firstname.lastname@example.org Mr. Bijendra Kumar, Data Manager, Social Mobilisation Network, UNICEF Bihar email@example.com.
1PolioComms Info is a DevInfo adaptation launched jointly by the Government of India and UNICEF India to monitor polio eradication programmes.