Knowledge Management for Global Health

Why does knowledge management matter for global health?

Knowledge is one of our most valuable assets for addressing the global health challenges of the 21st century. The management of this knowledge will affect individual lives, whole communities, and, ultimately, the health, social, and economic status of the entire world.

Global health organizations that adopt knowledge management strategies and practices can strengthen the performance of health care workers and programs. By doing so, they can improve health outcomes and even save lives. Using social processes, knowledge management ensures that people have the know-how they need, when they need it.

Key Messages

  • Knowledge saves lives.
  • Knowledge is an essential weapon against any epidemic.
  • Knowledge management helps people turn knowledge into action.

Definitions

  • Data: raw building blocks of information (numbers, statistics, individual facts)
  • Information: data presented in a useful, structured, and meaningful way
  • Knowledge: the capacity to act effectively
  • Knowledge management: a systematic process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it so they can act effectively
  • Social knowledge management: an approach to knowledge management that recognizes and emphasizes the vital role of human interaction in the creation, exchange, and use of knowledge to improve health

Overview

Global health and development work involves a multitude of actors who are working toward common goals. These efforts require immediate access to the latest research and know-how and demand optimal use of limited resources to achieve the greatest impact. Knowledge management—the process of collecting and curating knowledge and connecting people to it so they can act effectively—can improve coordination and enhance learning and application.

The ultimate goal of knowledge management in global health programs is to ensure that health practitioners have access to the latest research and experiential knowledge and that they apply that evidence at all levels of the health system—from the global, regional, and national levels down to the front lines—to save and improve people's lives.

KM components

Key Components of Knowledge Management

Good knowledge management is an inherently social process that allows people to build on each others’ expertise and learn from each others’ experiences. Knowledge management involves three essential components:

  • People generate, capture, share, and apply knowledge, primarily through human interaction. People can help cultivate an environment that encourages knowledge exchange and use of knowledge management systems.
  • Processes help us capture, curate, and share knowledge. Organizations must embrace and integrate these formal and informal processes into their daily workflows to be successful.
  • Technology, while a valuable tool, merely plays a supporting role to the real star of the show: knowledge. Information and communication technology that is appropriate to the context can expedite knowledge storage, retrieval, and exchange.
KM cycle

The Knowledge Management Cycle

Knowledge management is a cyclical process that involves five key elements:

  • Knowledge assessment
  • Knowledge generation
  • Knowledge capture
  • Knowledge synthesis
  • Knowledge sharing

Many of us practice knowledge management every day without realizing it by providing or using a variety of knowledge management approaches. These include websites, databases, mobile applications, guidelines, briefs, workshops, meetings, conferences, webinars, and much more.

What do these approaches and activities have in common? They help global health practitioners share and apply valuable know-how in their work. The results? A stronger health workforce, better health services, and longer, healthier lives.

Topic last updated: March 23, 2017