Knowledge Management for Public Health

Knowledge management (KM) provides a systematic approach to ensure that public health practitioners have access to the latest research and that they apply that research to public health programs at all levels of the health system—from the global, regional, and national levels down to the front lines. KM is an intentional process that includes identifying the knowledge needs of a particular audience and then generating, curating, and sharing relevant knowledge to help programs and organizations succeed.

Public health organizations that adopt KM strategies and practices can improve performance of health care workers and programs and contribute to reaching the end goal of improving health outcomes among communities. Using KM, public health programs can:

  • Promote collaboration and learning
  • Inform policy and advocacy
  • Improve programs, practice, and research
  • Enhance health training and education programs

KM programs are supported by three key components: people, processes, and technology.

  • People generate, store, and share knowledge and can help cultivate an environment that encourages knowledge sharing and use of KM systems.
  • Processes are the methods used to capture, curate, and share knowledge. These formal and informal processes must be embraced and integrated into an organization’s daily work flow to be most successful.
  • Use of technology that is appropriate to the context can expedite knowledge storage, retrieval, and exchange.

KM has particular relevance for low- and middle-income country settings. It can address human resource issues related to retaining organizational knowledge and can provide mechanisms for purposefully exchanging needed knowledge in real time. Implementing a KM system can ensure that relevant health knowledge—data, research findings, best practices, programmatic guidance—flows up and down the health system, from national to district to community levels and back up again. KM approaches also facilitate the exchange of information across a given level of the health system, improving the effectiveness and efficiency of public health programs.

To learn more about how to integrate KM into your program:


  • Resources
    BKMI is a USAID-funded project under the global Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project implemented by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP). BKMI works in close collaboration with the Ministry of Heath and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and the Bangladesh Center for Communication Programs (BCCP), with research support from Eminence.
  • Blog post

    The road to major global health achievement is paved with incremental successes along the way.  These smaller "wins" culminate over time and lead to big picture gains. This second installment of the Global Health: Science and Practice journal (GHSP) is all about highlighting those "wins" in various program areas, with the intent of sharing new learning about what works and how you might apply it to your programs. The GHSP editorial staff is pleased to feature articles that focus on:

    • Enabling health care providers to support family planning within an Islamic context
    • How limited electricity affects health facilities
    • The difficulties in distributing food aid in conflict and post-conflict countries
    • Achieving better maternal and newborn outcomes

    The GHSP Journal is focused on highlighting lessons large and small learned from global health programs implemented in the field. GHSP was developed for global health professionals, particularly program implementers, to validate their experiences and program results by peer reviewers and to share them with the greater global health community using a clear and concise communication style that highlights key concepts and messages.

    We are publishing Advance Access Articles which means articles are published n advance of the full issue to allow you to read about the interesting work that is being done around the world sooner than later. Sign up to be alerted about these articles: Under My eTOCs, select Add eTOCs or Add/Edit/Delete eTOCs. Make sure to check all three boxes to get notified of full issues, Advance Access Articles and other announcements including Global Health Pearls.

  • Resources
  • Blog post

    Editor's Note: The deadline to sign up for Knowledge Management for Public Health in Low and Middle Income Countries has been extended to Monday, May 20. Sign up now!

    The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Department of Health, Behavior and Society 2013 Summer Institute is offering Knowledge Management for Public Health in Low and Middle Income Countries June 19-21. Taught by Tara Sullivan, Deputy Director of the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs, and Piers Bocock, Director of Knowledge Management and Communication with the CGIAR Consortium, the course is geared primarily toward health professionals who design and/or manage health programs in low to middle income country settings, to help them maximize the impact of their programs.

    The registration deadline for the 2013 Health, Behavior and Society Summer Institute is May 13, 2013.

    Knowledge has the power to transform health and development programs worldwide. Using knowledge management (KM) as a systematic public health approach ensures that the latest knowledge is accessible and applied to public health practice in ways that strengthen public health systems and improve health and development outcomes.

  • Blog post

    When Yahoo rescinded their work from home policy a couple weeks ago they revitalized the debate over the future of office work. Conversations in board rooms and chat rooms alike examined telecommuting’s relationship to productivity, and in a recent blog post I discussed the vital importance face-to-face meetings play in K4Health’s eLearning work in Nigeria.

    Trainers and educators often encounter a dilemma similar to those faced by office managers and executives: live or virtual? The options for delivering education materials virtually have never been greater and more attractive. Just as the future of office work is fodder for pundits, the way formal learning will be delivered and consumed in the future is generating thoughtful debate. At K4Health, we place a heavy emphasis on eLearning but recognize that both live and virtual approaches are needed.

    The rise of the Internet, social media, and mobile technologies have made more information available to more people than ever before—but not everyone has equal access. While some people face challenges of information overload, others are still struggling with lack of access to information. K4Health serves a broad audience, including people at both extremes of the information spectrum. We strive to span the divide between the leading edge and the trailing edge by providing resources in a variety of online, mobile, and offline formats.

    Since 2005, USAID’s Global Health eLearning (GHeL) Center, developed by MSH and managed by K4Health, has provided access to over 72,000 registered learners on the latest program guidance on a variety of health and development technical areas. The vast majority (over 80%) of all learners come from developing countries. With such a large learner base and over 120,000 certificates of completion, GHeL has been a pioneer and leader in the field of eLearning, providing effective eLearning opportunities to large numbers of learners around the world for almost a decade. Now, as GHeL is re-launched with updated features and a new look, we stand ready for the next generation of eLearners but also cast an eye towards the offline formats and other training opportunities that our audience utilizes and seeks.  

    The K4Health Blended Learning Guide explains how GHeL courses can be strategically and systematically combined with other learning activities to increase application of new knowledge in the workplace.

  • Blog post
    EAC’s Open Health Initiative RMNCH indicator scorecard, signed by Conference delegates.

    EAC’s Open Health Initiative RMNCH indicator scorecard, signed by Conference delegates.

    I recently traveled from Arusha, Tanzania, home of the East Africa Community (EAC) Secretariat, to Uganda, the site of the EAC’s 5th Annual Health and Scientific Conference. On the way, I heard a couple delegates discuss which African countries were leading the way in health. “Who is #1?” they asked each other. Was it Botswana? Who could be last? Maybe Guinea?

    The conversation reflected the friendly competition that helps to motivate EAC’s five member states: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. During the Conference’s opening plenary, Professor Gerald Yonga from the Aga Khan University of East Africa compared regional statistics relating to non-communicable diseases, including alcohol and tobacco use as well as poor diet. Similarly, during the Symposium on Reproductive Maternal Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH), EAC Deputy Secretary General Hon. Jesca Eriyo and Hon. Dr. Chris Maryomunsi launched a scorecard that tracks key indicators and highlights trends among member states. 

  • Blog post
    Credit: Abraham Cresques, 1374. Public domain

    Credit: Abraham Cresques, 1374. Public domain

    Have you watched the new Netflix show, Marco Polo? Although based on one of the world’s most popular travelogues, critics argue that its representation of Asian people is imperfect and that the plot is historically inaccurate. Despite its failings, the East-meets-West plot captured my imagination. The first episode shows Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis, being charmed by Polo’s description of the trip to Beijing from Italy. We soon learn that the Mongol leader is frustrated in his quest to expand his empire and welcomes Polo’s new perspective to his already diverse council.

    Marco Polo’s 700-year old story is legend because he returns to the West, completing the cross-cultural cycle. As I watched the show, I thought of the work I do in knowledge management (KM) for global health. Though imperfect, the story is an analogy for the relationship between the new discipline of KM and the older discipline of social and behavior change communication (SBCC) in global health.

  • Blog post

    Drawing upon our experiences in using knowledge management techniques for family planning, we realized that knowledge management could lead to a stronger response in the Ebola outbreak, specifically the role of the Ebola Czar. While a connection between family planning, knowledge management, and Ebola might seem like a stretch, we noticed that every article about Ebola articulated issues relating to gaps in coordinating the response – between donors, local organizations, media, and the health system. Wanting to share lessons learned from our family planning experience to a broader audience, we presented at the 2015 Global Health Mini-University, an annual conference for public health professionals and students. Our session, “Coordination, Learning, and Adaptation: Advice for the Ebola Czar,” taught participants about the foundational components of coordination through knowledge management techniques, including Net-Mapping, peer assists, and after-action reviews. We then asked participants to apply these strategies to coordination, learning, and adaptation issues related to the Ebola response.

  • Blog post
    © 2011 A.M. Ahad, Courtesy of Photoshare.

    © 2011 A.M. Ahad, Courtesy of Photoshare.

    At the Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project, we believe that knowledge saves lives. Organizations that apply proven knowledge management techniques can improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of health workers and programs. This in turn improves health outcomes.

    Knowledge management can be a dry and technical topic that’s tough to get excited about. It can be difficult to understand, and its value can be hard to see. For those who are new to the topic, knowledge management is the process of collecting and curating knowledge, then connecting people to it so they can act effectively.

    Sounds easy enough, right? Think of it as a process that helps your team get better organized at work so that everyone knows exactly what they are responsible for and feels confident in their ability to do their job.