Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced a four-year, $100 million initiative aimed at helping low- and middle-income countries improve their public health data collection.
Launched in partnership with the Australian government, the Data for Health initiative will provide governments, aid organizations, and public health leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America with tools and systems to better collect data and prioritize health challenges, develop policies and allocate resources to address them, and measure outcomes. The World Health Organization estimates that thirty-five million deaths a year, or 65 percent of all deaths worldwide, go unrecorded, while millions more deaths lack a documented cause. The lack of accurate data, according to the foundation, creates obstacles for understanding and addressing public health issues.
With the goal of helping 1.2 billion people live healthier, longer lives, Data for Health will support improved mechanisms for the recording of births and deaths and for conducting public health surveys designed to monitor risk factors for early death, including non-communicable diseases such as those caused by tobacco use and poor nutrition. To that end, efforts funded by the initiative will take advantage of the widespread use of mobile phones in developing countries to enhance the response rate of household surveys. To assist governments with translating data into policy change, Bloomberg Philanthropies also will support training programs for local officials. Partner organizations in the initiative include the University of Melbourne, the CDC Foundation, Union North America, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and WHO.
"Reliable data is absolutely essential to problem solving, and nowhere is it more important than in public health," said Michael R. Bloomberg. "This new program will greatly enhance our understanding of the public health challenges we face — and greatly improve our ability to address them. We've set an ambitious goal, and working together with the Australian government, we believe we can meet it."