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

    As a rookie player to the game of mothering, I recently realized I had taken for granted the pleasant labor and delivery unit I experienced with the birth of my first child in October 2013. I was coached, cared for, and, most importantly, respected by all of the labor and delivery unit staff – isn’t that what everyone experiences? Unfortunately, I came to find out that the answer is “no.”

    This spring I had the opportunity to interview Meredith, a Certified Nurse-Midwife who works for Zanmi Lasante, the sister organization of Partners in Health in Haiti. She enlightened me to the fact that not all women have a positive or respectful experience during childbirth. One unfortunate result is that some women, upon hearing about or having a negative experience, choose to deliver at home without a skilled birth attendant. This puts them at risk of childbirth-related complications.

    How did a K4Health Toolkit help Meredith strengthen respectful maternity care in Haiti? Watch our new video to find out!

    If you are like Meredith and have used a Toolkit or a Toolkit resource in your work in an impactful way, I would love to hear your story.

  • Blog post
    The Roadmap for Health, Measurement and Accountability, Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health (MA4Health).

    The Roadmap for Health, Measurement and Accountability, Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health (MA4Health). 

    We recently gathered with global leaders to endorse The Roadmap for Health Measurement and Accountability and the Five-Point Call to Action at the Measurement and Accountability for Results in Health Summit. Convened by USAID, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization, the Summit emphasized the need for systematic measurement of health data, collaborative partnerships, and shared purpose and responsibility among health professionals. The roadmap, along with the commitment of global leaders, is meant to serve as a platform for collaboration on health measurement as we move into the post-2015 era.

    The roadmap and call to action are quite timely. Although we have made great strides, the health data agenda is unfinished. Limited access to data and usability of data both remain significant challenges to improving measurement and accountability for health. Donors, implementers, and governments all need accessible and usable data, yet they all have varying needs and capacities. As Jon Schwabish, Senior Economist at the Urban Institute and, put it, we need more “human readable” data. Usable data should be available to those who need it, when they need it, and where they need it.

  • Blog post
    How to Share Fair Cover Image

    Think back over the last few months. Have you had a day where you only communicated via technology?

    A few months ago, I had a highly productive day and worked on several projects— but didn't actually speak a single word. All of my communication was through email, Skype message, Google doc, and text messages. While I crossed a lot off my to-do list that day, I felt really disconnected.

    I had spent the day talking at people, not with people.

    This point is highlighted in an Atlantic interview with Sherry Turkle, renowned author of the 2011 book Alone Together. Both the article and the book focus on the idea that in this age of data overload, the art of conversation and real engagement is becoming lost.

    In the field of KM, we talk about the importance of capturing tacit knowledge. That is to say, the information that is in people’s heads, not written down on paper. Usually this information is shared informally and often in a face-to-face setting. Simply put, we need to talk with each other, not at each other.

  • Resources