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Transforming Global Health Through Data

An ongoing study involving more than 1,000 researchers in over 100 countries shows how data is transforming global health programs.

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study was created to be able to examine health data on a larger scale and understand what is making people sick and causing them to die on specific continents.

Instead of only including prevalence approximations when it comes to a disease, the study also contains information on the relative harm the disease causes.

The study is currently gathering data on death and disability in 188 countries about more than 300 diseases and injuries, ranging from 1990-present. By organizing the data, researchers are able to make comparisons between years, age groups and populations.

Additionally, the machinery used by GBD gives researchers regular updates when the new statistics become available. Such tools and statistics can be used at the international, national and local levels to make sense of trends over time when it comes to health.

The study comes in conjunction with reports from the World Health Organization that show people are still dying from curable diseases in low-income countries. Projections by the organization show that, over the next 15 years, such diseases could be some of the leading causes of death in those countries.

Data gathered by GBD shows that diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other chronic diseases cause 64 percent of deaths in low-income countries. Less than two percent of global health aid, however, is allocated toward these diseases.

Health data, in turn, allows for engagement and innovation and using the data can help lead to health equality.

That’s the goal of GBD. When presenting political leaders and health officials with data, researchers want them to understand the big picture in terms of public health.

One example of political leaders using health data is in Rwanda. When researchers discovered that indoor air pollution resulting from dirty cookstoves was the leading risk factor for health loss, the Rwandan government replaced around a million with clean ones.

Matt Wotus

Sources: Devex International Development, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, ONE Campaign
Photo: Google Images