Launched in 2015 in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the initiative is focused on improving health data globally by helping governments gather accurate data about the health of their citizens. To that end, more than a hundred public health practitioners from participating countries convened in New York City last week to discuss progress to date in improving the quality of birth and death registration through the modernization of national reporting systems, training medical professionals in hospitals and communities to more accurately record cause of death, and requiring more and better health-related reporting.
Since the first cohort of countries to receive technical assistance and funding through the initiative were announced last year, Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Morocco, Rwanda, and the Solomon Islands have revised their death certification to meet the international standard established by the World Health Organization; Brazil, Myanmar, Rwanda, and Sri Lanka have begun collecting critical information on deaths that occur outside of hospitals; and more than thirty-nine individuals in sixteen countries — more than 40 percent of them women — have been trained in innovative methods to improve birth and death data. In addition, a protocol for conducting the first-ever nationally representative standardized mobile phone survey has nearly been completed, and four countries are planning to implement a new mobile phone technology platform that measures risk factors for non-communicable diseases.
"Most people don't realize how big a problem the lack of health data is — or that nearly two-thirds of the world's deaths go unrecorded, which is incredible," said Bloomberg Philanthropies founder Michael R. Bloomberg, who serves as WHO global ambassador for non-communicable diseases. "This is a fixable problem, and Data for Health is showing how we can do it. The fact is, there are so many problems we could solve with the right information. That's why data drives all our work at Bloomberg Philanthropies."