Can I have some accountability, please?

November 5, 2006 at 5:46 am (Sarah's Posts)

When I visit Primary Health Centers around where I’m living and ask about statistics, each medical officer proudly shows off his registers. They are piles of notebooks that contain all of the health information that has been collected from the center. Hand drawn lines and figures are collected into large stacks of books. This is the response that the Indian gov’t has prescribed for data collection and accountability. These books are the final word and are the source of most health statistics coming out of the country. The medical officers that I spoke with admitted that many PHCs faked numbers or just were bad at recording data. As I looked through the columns of hand-written numbers, I was thinking about what sort of system would be better and would ensure more accountability.


I realize that someone who is determined to cheat can probably find ways to get around any decent accountability system. But, it seems more that it is a problem of inertia. Right now, it is easier to write a number than to get out and do the work, especially if nobody is checking that it is getting done. My professor suggested that some sort of real-time reporting would do the trick. But, few centers have computers in the first place, let alone internet access. So, I’m throwing the question out here… what sort of system would work better for reporting data? More accountability checks? Who would you ask? Community members?


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