Saving lives with one click on the phone

Scholastica J. Munishi, HISP, Tanzania
Once a week, using solely a cell phone and her notes, health worker Scholastica J. Munishi reports health data from the clinic she is running in the Temeke area in Tanzania. Photo: Gunhild M. Haugnes/UiO Bruk bildet.

Saving lives with one click on the phone

Government decisions are getting faster and better with Norwegian Health-IT.

Mbutu, Temeke, Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA

A goat is passing by - bleaking - on the sunburnt plain outside the brick building that houses the clinic Mbutu dispensary. The manager Scholastica J. Munishi pulls out her Nokia cell phone. The experienced health worker sits down with some notes in her lap and starts typing statistical health information from her district concerning people diagnosed with malaria, tuberculosis, animal bites and how many pregnant women that have been to check-ups.

- It's very easy, smiles Munishi, doing this task once a week.

You can also read this article in Norwegian

Kristin Braa, HISP, DHIS2
Project manager Kristin Braa with the catalogue where Munishi keeps the notes she will report. Photo: Gunhild M . Haugnes/UiO Bruk bildet.

Easy and important data

Mbutu dispensary is located in the rural Kigamboni area south of Dar-es-Salaam, and it covers approximately 5000 inhabitants.

Munishi is one of the country's several thousand health workers who feed data into the health data system DHIS2, developed by researchers at the University of Oslo over the last 20 years.

Like many other African countries, Tanzania has implemented the DHIS2 throughout the country - across all health programs.

One of the many advantages with DHIS2 is that you can send health data even from places with no fixed-network telephony or Internet. Simple cell phone access is enough.

Mbutu dispensary is fully booked every day and has its own, small laboratory.

- Among other things we analyze urine specimen, and we have medication for the most common diseases, Musingi says, showing us a tray with malaria drugs.

Better mother/child health

The clinic also has a delivery room where a handful of new citizens are born each month.

At the same time as a delegation from the University of Oslo and the Tanzania government is visiting, Lalia Tido Mbuhda and her son Masha have come for a check-up and vaccination.

Mbutu, Tanzania, HISP
Lalia Tido Mbuhda's son Masha has just got his vaccination from the health carers Rashidi Lusasi haruna and Kalisia Silvester Wata. Photo: Gunhild M . Haugnes/UiO

One little jab and then Masha is vaccinated against pneumococcus, a bacteria that can cause meningitis and other severe illnesses.

Infant and child mortality rates are high in a lot of African countries, and one way to address this is the vaccination programs.

This is where mobile data through DHIS2 has its value. Health data from Mbutu and other health clinics go via DHIS2 straight to Temeke Municipal Council, which is the region Mbutu belongs to.


DHIS 2 (District Health Information Software)(link is external)is a health information system based on open source code, mobile network and mobile devices.

Here the data are processed, and statistics and illustrations display the development of when, where and how many people suffer from different diseases.

Took action against cholera outburst

Last year there was a major breakout of cholera in parts of the Temeke area.

Through data collected via the DHIS2 on cell phones, they quickly got an overview of the situation, like which areas were most affected.

Dr. Lawrent A. Chipatta, HISP, Tanzania
Dr. Lawrent A. Chipatta confirms that health data gathered through DHIS2 made it possible to take action quickly after a cholera outburst. PhD Candidate Wilfred Seyoni takes a peek at some new data. Photo: Gunhild M . Haugnes Bruk bildet.

- That made it easy to act quickly. The patients got quicker follow-ups, and we could put together a team that targeted the actions. Thus we controlled the outburst and reduced the amount of injured people, says Dr. Lawrent A. Chipatta.

He is Emercency and Disaster Coordinator for HMIS (Health Management Information System) in the Temeke region.

Cholera can be fatal. And Chipatta points out that prompt treatment some times can mean the difference between life and death.

During the cholera outburst, 945 incidents were discovered in Temeke, of which 16 died. The numbers would probably have been higher without the effective use of health data supporting immediate response.

Chipatta is very pleased with DHIS2, especially how the system supports staf at all levels of the health system, from local health workers to national managers.

Kolera, HISP, Tanzania
The autorities have access to graphic presentations of disease outbursts when using the data from DHIS2. This is an overview of the cholera epidemic. Photo: Gunhild M . Haugnes/UiO Bruk bildet.

Better political solutions

Also in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children in Dar es Salaam they are convinced that DHIS2 helps them to provide better health services in the country.

Through the system, Claud J. Kumalija, head of the Health Management Information System in the Ministry, and the other IT workers have online access to health data from Temeke and other regions in Tanzania. They develop graphical visualizations and reports that are used in the political decision-making process.

- The data supports better decisions. Our president is very pleased with the data in the health service and has said that he would like the same quality also from other sectors, Kumalija smiles as he emphasizes that there are still things to do.

Even if DHIS2 is installed as a national system, the quality of use varies, but they are working to improve it.

Claud J. Kumalija, HISP, Tanzania
Claud J. Kumalija at the Health Ministry points out that DHIS2 helps the authorities making better decisions. Photo: Gunhild M . Haugnes Bruk bildet.

Big data and a bumpy ride

At the same time the authorities have put their eyes on big data.

- We are having challenges with the huge amount of data we are collecting and need good systems to analyze it all, says Kumalija.

- What is the best part of DHIS2?

- That it's online and web based, we can solve it all on the Internet. We bypass long travels by car to pick up data. Earlier, before we got the DHIS2, we sometimes got a message from one unit about a computer malfunction. Driving 200 kilometers on bumpy and crammed roads to find that the computer mouse was unplugged, was poor utilization of our resources, Kumalija points out.

More from in English:

Project manager and Professor Kristin Braa at the Department of Informatics

Les også

Odobenus rosmarus

The boom and bust economy of the Greenland Norse walrus ivory trade

The Norse settlements on Greenland was founded by Erik the Red around 985 and lasted almost 500 years. New research show that the settlers hunted walrus and traded tusks and ivory across Europe during the Middle Ages, but the hunt became so intense that it may have led to the collapse of Norse Greenland. 

‘De sibirske trappene’, Russland.

New piece of the puzzle added for "the Great Dying"

It's not about the Black Death or the dinosaurs dying out. "The Great Dying" is an event in the geological perspective. The largest of all mass extinctions on Earth. We are at the end of the Permian Period, 252 million years ago.

Spebarn som mates med sonde i nesen

High standards for human milk banks in Norway

– Donor milk recipients are the smallest and most vulnerable members of our society. We are obliged to provide them with as good support as we possibly can, says Dr. Hedvig Nordeng at the University of Oslo.