$100M Effort To Boost Health Data Collection in Developing Countries

March 24, 2015 in News

Bloomberg Philanthropies — the philanthropic foundation of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) — and the Australian government are launching a four-year, $100 million health data collection initiative aimed at helping individuals in 20 African, Southeast Asian and Latin American countries, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Background on Limited Health Data

According to the World Health Organization, about two-thirds of deaths in the world — or about 35 million deaths annually — are not recorded. Further, about 75% of death certificates only list general causes of death, which limits the ability of public health researchers to study diseases and premature deaths, according to Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Bloomberg said, “You have to have some real numbers to know whether you’re making progress,” adding, “Unless you know what’s going on, it’s kind of hard to attack problems; you don’t even know which problems to attack.”

Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop said the Australian government believes improving data collection can help developing countries bolster their health systems (McKay, Wall Street Journal, 3/22).

Details of New Initiative

The new initiative — called Data for Health — aims to help 1.2 billion individuals in 20 countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America live healthier and longer lives.

The project will provide governments, aid organizations and public health officials with data collection tools that can help them prioritize health issues, develop policies, use resources and measure effectiveness (Bloomberg Philanthropies release, 3/23).

Kelly Henning, head of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ public health programs, said the initiative will seek to improve data collection on births and deaths, as well as risk factors — such as smoking and poor nutrition –that can cause heart disease and other conditions. She added that Data for Health will leverage efficient and inexpensive data collection methods, such as mobile phones (Wall Street Journal, 3/22).

In addition, Bloomberg Philanthropies will offer training programs to help local officials interpret the data and use the information to inform policy decisions (Bloomberg Philanthropies release, 3/23).

Australia is contributing $15 million over the next two years to the project (Wall Street Journal, 3/22).

Other groups participating in the Data for Health initiative include the:

  • CDC Foundation;
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health;
  • Union North America;
  • University of Melbourne; and
  • World Health Organization (Bloomberg Philanthropies release, 3/23).
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