Gender Data Sheds Light on Vulnerable Populations in Zambia

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Countries in sub-Saharan Africa often do not have gender-related data to inform their health strategies. Yet, more women in sub-Saharan Africa are infected with HIV than men, which exemplifies the urgent need for such data to inform how to most effectively address the inequity.

When policymakers get access to gender-related data to inform national health strategies, as well as program development and implementation, health outcomes for vulnerable populations improve.

Bettering health outcomes for women and other populations at high risk for HIV

Samantha Herrera and Debra Prosnitz, monitoring and evaluation (M&E) specialists for USAID’s MEASURE Evaluation program, have strengthened M&E system assessment tools by adding gender-related questions to existing tool frameworks. Such assessment tools specifically look at an M&E system’s capacity for collecting, analyzing, reporting on, and using health data, now with a gender lens.

“In order to be able to understand how gender influences health outcomes, we need to design M&E systems to capture this information and then design programs using the data,” Herrera says. “The system must also be set up to capture the type of data that will help you know whether your program is appropriately addressing gender differentials.”

A gender-sensitive M&E system is important because it provides data that is used to inform the design and monitoring of programs. Gender especially affects one’s access to health information and services. Herrera says a cornerstone of an effective health care system is the ability to identify the most vulnerable populations and make sure health programs are reaching them. MEASURE Evaluation’s new gender questions were piloted with an assessment in Zambia done by the National AIDS Council. Such findings could be used to inform the national HIV/AIDS strategic framework.

“The assessment revealed that Zambia’s M&E system was not set up to collect and analyze data on high-risk populations for HIV,” Herrera says. This data could now help Zambia meet some PEPFAR funding requirements.

M&E system assessments help ministries of health, national HIV/AIDS councils, malaria control programs, and other organizations better design their M&E systems in order to understand the situation on the ground, design programs around those situations effectively, and then monitor progress.

Improvements in gender data capture help better represent vulnerable populations—such as women in sub-Saharan Africa—which leads to better health outcomes. Stronger M&E systems mean more comprehensive and higher quality data that help make programs aimed at addressing gender differentials more effective.

As Herrera puts it, “Through this work, MEASURE Evaluation is helping countries like Zambia aid the most vulnerable people in receiving the health care they greatly need.”