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:


  • 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.

  • Publications & Resources
  • Publications & 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

    LeaderNet: Advancing Healthcare Leadership, Management, and Governance

    This post, by Erin Portillo, originally appeared on the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) Blog.  HC3 is co-hosting an online discussion forum on LeaderNet, a web-based platform for global health peer-to-peer learning an exchange, is run by K4Health partner Management Sciences for Health (MSH).  The online discussion forum will run from April 22-24, 2014, and will focus on Youth and Leadership in Sexual and Reproductive Health. For frameworks, case studies, and practical strategies on youth-focused reproductive health, visit the four Toolkits on Youth hosted by K4Health, including the Youth Policy Toolkit and the Integrating Reproductive Health into Youth and Development Programs Toolkit.

    Youth are increasingly a priority audience for sexual and reproductive health (SRH) projects around the world. But the role youth play in designing and implementing these interventions often varies, or is limited — and this can mean programs intended to affect positive changes in young people’s lives aren’t as effective as they could be. So what can we, as proactive youth and older SRH professionals, do?

    Participate in answering this question and posing new ones in an online discussion from April 22-24, 2014. Young people and adults working in SRH programming are invited to share their ideas on SRH youth engagement.

  • Blog post

    This past Monday, we celebrated World Health Day, which focused on combating the global threat of vector-borne diseases. According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people are infected and more than one million die every year from vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, dengue, Lyme disease, and yellow fever.

    WHO produced the following short video, highlighting simple measures we can take to protect ourselves from mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and bug that may threaten our health.

    One bite of a mosquito, a sandfly, a blackfly, or a tick can be more than annoying. It can be fatal.

  • Publications & Resources

    The End of Project report for K4Health's work in Southern Africa.

  • Blog post

    For thousands of people living in rural Bangladesh, Health Assistants (HAs) and Family Welfare Assistants (FWAs)—collectively called field workers—are the first line of health care, and for many, the only cadre of health professional they have access to for health, population and nutrition (HPN) information and services. It therefore becomes very important that these field workers have the necessary skills and confidence to provide quality counseling services.

    Field Workers in Bangladesh with their Netbooks

    Field workers in Bangladesh with their netbooks.

    Credit: Vanessa Mitchell

    The Bangladesh Knowledge Management Initiative (BKMI) implemented an eHealth pilot whereby 300 field workers (150 HAs and 150 FWAs), mostly women, received netbook computers loaded with digital resources (brochures, flipcharts, videos, job aids, etc.) and eLearning courses to facilitate HPN counseling and also improve their own knowledge. The results are in, and knowledge levels for both FWs and mothers in communities increased dramatically across HPN during the short 3.5 month implementation period.

    Just as important, and not a finding we necessarily expected, is that the netbooks empowered the field workers. During our routine monitoring, the research team conducted interviews with FWs and found that having the technology and a wealth of information at their fingertips made them feel proud, confident, and important. In fact, the elevated confidence observed from having the netbook actually changed how members of the community perceived them. Their improved social status resulted in more people seeking out HPN services from them.

  • Blog post
    Ixchen, an NGO providing women's health services, promotes affordable mammography and ultrasound with a banner outside Ixchen's center in the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua

    Ixchen, an NGO providing women's health services, promotes affordable mammography and ultrasound with a banner outside Ixchen's center in the outskirts of Managua, Nicaragua.

    © 2002 Alfredo L. Fort, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Most if not all health interventions require an element of behavior change. As noted in Dr. Jim Shelton's August 2013 editorial  "The 6 domains of behavior change: the missing health system building block" in the Global Health: Science and Practice Journal, 15 of the top 20 health risk factors in sub-Saharan Africa are predominantly behavioral, and the other five are highly influenced by behavior. (See the table [1] at right for the data.)

    In your own life, think about some of the health-related messages that you hear or see on a daily basis that aim to convince us to change your behavior. For example:

     “Fasten your seat belt.”

    “Don’t litter.”