Why this website
We are a group of practitioners and academics who contributed to The Palgrave Handbook of Global Health Data Methods for Policy and Practice. Our goal is to assist students, practitioners, policymakers and the general public understand how data are collected, analysed and disseminated to improve global health. We created the website to complement the book and provide useful links to additional information and websites. We hope that by bringing these themes together, we will stimulate others to continue to frame and enhance global health data and methods.
COVID-19 has struck the world since we wrote the chapters for this book. The pandemic highlights the need to enhance global cooperation to protect people’s health. It also demonstrates the importance of obtaining good data to understand what is happening and inform response efforts.
The media present and discuss facts and figures about COVID-19 every day. But who provides this information? Are the data they use trustworthy? The chapters of the book provide an overview of approaches to collecting and analysing data which are fundamental to tackling the pandemic. We have added examples and resources relevant to COVID-19 to each section of the website. We will continue to upload material to these sections.
Layout of the website
We have organized the content of the site into topics which we have grouped to address these questions:
What are global health data?
Health-related data become global health data when aggregated, synthesised, and exchanged internationally. As global health indicators, they drive international debate and collaborative efforts to improve health status and reduce disparities across populations, borders, and geographies. Numerous people and agencies create and use global health data. But national governments maintain essential infrastructures to produce quality data to address their health priorities. Countries share these data as indicators for international bench-marking against agreed targets.
Who collects the data?
National governments maintain health information systems to systematically collect and use data from every level of the health system and report indicators to international agencies. These agencies estimate and publish global health indicators. Non-governmental and research organizations also collect a significant amount of data. We describe the information systems that provide the structure in which all these organizations create data and evidence.
What are the types of data?
Global health data come in many forms. They may describe, for example: the age, sex and economic structure of a population; the distribution and behaviour of health conditions in that population and their associated determinants and risk factors; the opinions of the population about their health, their attitudes about health provision and their cultural health practices; the operation of the health system including access and coverage of interventions and their cost. We classify these data and describe how they are collected and transformed into indicators.
How are the data used?
Governments and other agencies use data to set policies and evaluate the programmes they implement to address their health priorities. We describe how decision makers use the data to set priorities and develop policies and evaluate programmes.
What are the routine data sources?
National governments collect data to manage their health systems. The major data sources that all countries use are: population censuses, civil registration and vital statistics systems, household surveys, health management information systems, and public health surveillance systems. We describe each of these sources of data.
What other data sources exist?
Health systems rely on other specialized systems to provide important data, for example about human resources for health and logistics management. Public health providers must adapt information systems in situations of conflict and famine. Sectors other than health also contribute health-related information. We describe as examples: systems of national health accounts, human resources for health information systems, the way in which climate information systems can inform health decisions, and systems to estimate mortality during conflict.
How are data collected and analysed?
Governmental and other agencies and researchers use many approaches to collect and analyse health and health-related data. They rely on the methods drawn from disciplines such the social sciences, demography, epidemiology, health economics, geography and statistics. Each of these disciplines require specialized training. We summarise the usefulness of the methods and refer readers to more specialised resources for methodological detail.
What are good data practices?
Global health data must be trustworthy and represent populations fairly. Ideally, producers collect and manage these data consistently, economically, efficiently, ethically, and transparently, and disseminate them widely. We describe ways to maintain the quality and integrity of data and evidence and we address the ethical issues that arise in running health information systems. We explain how to make data openly available.