Advancing public health through data – A partnership spotlight on EPHI’s National Data Management and Analytics Center for Health (NDMC)

Published June 10, 2024

researchers discuss a data visualization of Ethiopian health

In the realm of public health, the power of data cannot be overstated. It informs decisions, shapes policies, and can improve lives. Recognizing this power, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute’s (EPHI) National Data Management and Analytics Center for Health (NDMC), in collaboration with the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), has embarked on a transformative journey to revolutionize health data management and utilization for better health outcomes in Ethiopia and beyond.

Why NDMC? A response to data fragmentation

The NDMC was established in 2017 by EPHI and the Ministry of Health to address a critical gap in Ethiopia’s health data ecosystem. Despite the abundance of health-related data, the absence of a national coordinating body resulted in a fragmented data landscape, which hindered the use of data to inform public health decision-making. The NDMC’s creation aimed to consolidate health data into a national repository, establish standard governance systems, and leverage advanced analytics and visualization techniques to influence health policy and practice in Ethiopia.

NDMC’s comprehensive approach

To meet Ethiopia’s demand for data-driven decision-making, NDMC operates four specialized units focused on various aspects of health data management and evidence translation, including a Data Repository and Governance Unit, Data Analytics, Modeling and Visualization Unit, Burden of Disease Unit, and a Data to Action Unit. These units collectively work to catalyze strong data systems and cultural transformation on the value and use of health data driven by five strategies: capacity building, data, collaboration, evidence use, and funding.  

"To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together." Dr. Awoke Temesgen shares the benefits of multidisciplinary collaboration for scientific advancement.

A win-win partnership with IHME

Harnessing the strong collaboration between EPHI and IHME, NDMC has partnered with IHME since its inception. NDMC sought IHME technical assistance for its analytics and evidence generation endeavors as the center grew. NDMC’s Burden of Disease unit worked jointly with IHME to improve national burden of disease estimates and to produce the first-ever subnational burden of disease estimates for Ethiopia’s regions and city administrations. This partnership has been pivotal in enhancing Ethiopia’s national and subnational burden of disease estimates and translating GBD evidence to inform health policies and strategies. The collaboration has bolstered a multidisciplinary workforce to advance burden of disease analytic initiatives and enhanced health information revolution strategies at national and regional levels through the NDMC and data sharing and accessibility initiatives. These and other high-impact successes have made NDMC a flagship initiative of the Ministry of Health and elevated it to a core function of EPHI.  

A legacy of success and future aspirations

EPHI has significantly advanced its data management capabilities through the establishment of the NDMC, creating a sustainable, comprehensive data system. This includes an online data repository, governance system, and platforms for advanced analytics, visualization, and evidence-informed action. As a result, NDMC’s analytic results on priority topics, such as pandemic- and epidemic-prone diseases and drivers of vaccine coverage, have been requested by the Ministry of Health to inform strategies, and the scientific findings have notably influenced health policy and strategy development, including the essential health service packages and national strategies for non-communicable diseases and digital health. Capitalizing on its successes and building on the strong foundations established through the EPHI-IHME collaboration, NDMC is poised to deliver on the next stage of quality data generation, with great opportunity to improve burden of disease estimates and local analytic outputs while addressing pressing policy questions for EPHI and the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Awoke Temesgen discusses the partnership between IHME, the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, the National Data Management Center, and the Ministry of Health.

Closing reflections

In closing, the partnership between NDMC and IHME exemplifies the transformative power of collaboration and innovation in public health. By harnessing the potential of data, NDMC and EPHI are not only addressing current health challenges but also laying the groundwork for a healthier future for Ethiopia and beyond. The journey of the NDMC serves as a model for other nations grappling with similar public health data challenges.

As we reflect on the NDMC’s journey, let us be reminded of the African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The path to improving public health through data is a journey best undertaken together, with collaboration at its heart.