Analysing the functions, roles and skills of District Information Officers in the implementation of the District Health Information System in South Africa
The production of health information has not only become a priority but a demand for the functioning of the District Health System. The implementation of the District Health Information System led to the establishment of a new group of health cadres, District Information Officers. Health workers with different professional backgrounds have been appointed or seconded into the position of a District Information Officer to produce the information to be used for decision making and planning of health services. District Information Officers are thus an essential part of the information system tasked with collating, analysing, interpreting and disseminating the information produced by the district. The problem is that the existing and required qualifications, functions, skills and roles have not yet been investigated or explored but job descriptions and training programmes have been developed for this health cadre. The purpose of the study is to develop a comprehensive perspective of what currently exists and what is identified as required to fulfil the job category of a District Information Officer. The study is important for the development of training programmes and job descriptions. The study used a descriptive study design with qualitative techniques providing a description of the functions, roles and skills of District Information Officers. Three types of data collection techniques were used in the study: job descriptions, checklist and standardized open-ended interviews with two groups of informants, District Information Officers and District Managers, to develop an in-depth understanding of the functions, skills and roles of a District Information Officer. The thesis provides a comparative description by highlighting the difference between the existing and the required functions, skills and roles of a District Information Officer. The study found that there is no standardised job description, the expected functions to province, different job titles were given to District Information Officers and a career path is practically non-existent. In addition, the study also identified a skills gap and suggests that systematic training is required to develop the prerequisite skills to perform the functions required for the successful implementation of the District Health Information System.
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