National health policy-makers' views on the clarity and utility of Countdown to 2015 country profiles and reports: findings from two exploratory qualitative studies

Benjamin M Hunter, Jennifer H Requejo, Ian Pope, Bernadette Daelmans, Susan F Murray

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The use of sets of indicators to assess progress has become commonplace in the global health arena. Exploratory research has suggested that indicators used for global monitoring purposes can play a role in national policy-making, however, the mechanisms through which this occurs are poorly understood. This article reports findings from two qualitative studies that aimed to explore national policy-makers’ interpretation and use of indicators from country profiles and reports developed by Countdown to 2015.

An initial study aimed at exploring comprehension of Countdown data was conducted at the 2010 joint Women Deliver/Countdown conference. A second study was conducted at the 64th World Health Assembly in 2011, specifically targeting national policy-makers. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 29 and 22 participants, respectively, at each event. Participants were asked about their understanding of specific graphs and indicators used or proposed for use in Countdown country profiles, and their perception of how such data can inform national policy-making. Responses were categorised using a framework analysis.

Respondents in both studies acknowledged the importance of the profiles for tracking progress on key health indicators in and across countries, noting that they could be used to highlight changes in coverage, possible directions for future policy, for lobbying finance ministers to increase resources for health, and to stimulate competition between neighbouring or socioeconomically similar countries. However, some respondents raised questions about discrepancies between global estimates and data produced by national governments, and some struggled to understand the profile graphs shown in the absence of explanatory text. Some respondents reported that use of Countdown data in national policy-making was constrained by limited awareness of the initiative, insufficient detail in the country profiles to inform policy, and the absence of indicators felt to be more appropriate to their own country contexts.

The two studies emphasise the need for country consultations to ensure that national policy-makers understand how to interpret and use tools like the Countdown profile for planning purposes. They make clear the value of qualitative research for refining tools used to promote accountability, and the need for country level Countdown-like processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number40
Number of pages9
JournalHealth research policy and systems / BioMed Central
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2014


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