5 March 2014

Global health leaders agreed to critically review their respective agency reporting requirements to countries, with the goal of reducing the burden of country reporting. A new report documents their findings.

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Global agency reporting requirements for developing countries are resulting in large numbers of indicators and fragmented data collection. In addition, efforts to strengthen country institutional capacity are uncoordinated. All of these cause unnecessary reporting burdens to countries and lead to inefficiencies, which ultimately hampers overall analysis and decision-making. These are the key messages to come out of a new report – A rapid assessment of the burden of indicators and reporting requirements for health monitoring – recently prepared by the World Health Organization on behalf of the multi-agency group on indicators and reporting requirements.

In September 2013, at an informal meeting, global health leaders agreed to critically review their respective agency reporting requirements to countries, with the goal of reducing the burden of country reporting. A working group of 19 agency representatives, chaired by the WHO Director-General, took stock of global practices and reporting requirements. The report gives an overview of the global perspective of reporting requirements, assesses the current indicators of reporting burden for selected countries and identifies areas where efforts can be made to both strengthen and reduce reporting burdens.

The main findings from the review were: 

There are too many indicators. For example, international reporting can increase the number of indicators in national M&E plans by an additional 40-50 percent.

Reporting requirements for countries are diverse and multiple. The number of requests for data appears to be increasing because there are more initiatives and efforts and growing demands for disaggregated data. This is felt hardest at health facility level where frontline health workers have to complete large numbers of forms, registers and reports. 

There is weak country monitoring and evaluation with disease programme monitoring in silos. In many countries, alignment of indicators in national health sector strategic plans and programme-specific M&E plans is poor, leading to unnecessary duplication and mushrooming of indicators. 

Investments in country M&E systems are often fragmented and inefficient. Agencies tend to invest in separate and single-purpose data collection efforts, such as facility reporting systems on antiretroviral therapy or immunization, rather than using country systems.

The report recommends possible action for partners including:

  1. Agreeing a unified results measurement framework with a limited, core set of indicators.
  2. Aligning reporting with the national M&E platform and strengthen country M&E platforms for information and accountability.
  3. Invest in M&E systems including country data systems.