Health practitioners’ and health planners’ information needs and seeking behavior for decision making in Uganda
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BACKGROUND: Access to reliable information is the most cost-effective and achievable strategy for sustainable improvement in health care. While several studies have described practitioners' information seeking behavior in developed countries, literature from developing countries is lacking. The aims of the study were: (i) to determine the most influential type of information for health workers' and planners' decision making; (ii) to establish the practitioners' evaluation of the availability and quality of this important information; and (iii) to establish the most commonly used/accessible sources of the information relevant for decision making in Uganda. METHODS: Self-administered questionnaires were sent to 610 health workers, planners, and administrators at the national, district and health facility levels in four districts in Uganda. Respondents were reminded three times, after which non-response was registered. Data were entered, cleaned and analysed using SPSS version 12.0. Logistic regression analysis was used to test for differences in responses. RESULTS: The response rate was 67.7% (413). The respondents indicated that personal experience (79%), discussion with colleagues (76%) and national policy and treatment guidelines (75%) were most influential when making decisions in health care and planning. They reported that most of the epidemiological information was available and of relatively good quality but there was lack of information about distribution of benefit, segregated demographic data, and social values. The most often used sources of information included; discussions with colleagues (89%), doctors' statements (85%) and text books (77%). The least frequently used sources were the internet and the library. This varied with respondents' designation and region of origin. CONCLUSIONS: Health planners and practitioners lack some of the information relevant for decision making. They tend to rely on the national policy and treatment guidelines, discussion with colleagues, and personal experience. Most frequently used sources of information are similar to previous studies. The variation in the frequency of use of the different sources of research information necessitates research to understand the barriers and careful planning of health information delivery to ensure equitable access.
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