Original Research

Barriers and opportunities to using health information in policy implementation: The case of adolescent and youth friendly health services in the Western Cape

Myrna van Pinxteren, Sara Cooper, Christopher J. Colvin
African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine | Vol 13, No 1 | a2654 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/phcfm.v13i1.2654 | © 2021 Myrna van Pinxteren, Sara Cooper, Christopher J. Colvin | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 08 July 2020 | Published: 25 February 2021

About the author(s)

Myrna van Pinxteren, Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Sara Cooper, Cochrane South Africa, South African Medical Research Council, Cape Town, South Africa
Christopher J. Colvin, Division of Social and Behavioural Sciences, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa


Background: The production, use and exchange of health information is an essential part of the health services, as it is used to inform daily decision-making and to develop new policies, guidelines and programmes. However, there is little insight into how health care workers (HCWs) get access to and use health information when implementing new health programmes.

Aim: This study explored the multifaceted role of health information within policy implementation processes and aimed to understand the complexities experienced by HCWs who need to develop adolescent health profiles (AHPs), a criterion of implementing a larger Adolescent and Youth Friendly Services Programme (AYFSP).

Setting: This case study was undertaken in Gugulethu, a peri-urban, low-income neighbourhood in Cape Town, South Africa.

Methods: Data were collected through ethnographic qualitative methods, including participant observation, interviews and workshops, and 15 participants were enrolled for this purpose.

Results: Findings showed that HCWs experienced different barriers when accessing information to develop the AHPs, including a lack of access to databases, a lack of support and inadequate guidelines. Nevertheless, HCWs were resourceful in using informal information and building strategic relationships to navigate and gain access to the necessary data to develop AHPs.

Conclusion: This case study provided insights into the practical difficulties and innovative strategies which arise when HCWs attempt to access and use health information within a real-life health programme. Findings highlighted the need for more training, support and guidance for HCWs to improve the meaningful use of health information during policy implementation processes and to strengthen health services in South African primary care clinics.


policy implementation; health information; youth health services; health systems; sexual reproductive health; health service strengthening


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Crossref Citations

1. Using health information for community activism: A case study of the movement for change and social justice in South Africa
Myrna van Pinxteren, Christopher J. Colvin, Sara Cooper, Isabelle Uny
PLOS Global Public Health  vol: 2  issue: 9  first page: e0000664  year: 2022  
doi: 10.1371/journal.pgph.0000664