Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the Australian government, is launching Data for Health, a $100 million initiative that will enable 20 low- and middle-income countries to vastly improve public health data collection.
Each year the World Health Organization estimates that 65% of all deaths worldwide – 35 million each year – go unrecorded. Millions more deaths lack a documented cause. This gap in data creates major obstacles for understanding and addressing public health problems.
The Data for Health initiative seeks to provide governments, aid organizations, and public health leaders with tools and systems to better collect data – and use it to prioritize health challenges, develop policies, deploy resources, and measure success. Over the next four years, Data for Health aims to help 1.2 billion people in 20 countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America live healthier, longer lives.
“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.”
“Australia’s partnership on Data for Health coincides with the launch of innovationXchange, a new initiative to embrace exploration, experimentation, and risk through a focus on innovation,” said the Hon Julie Bishop MP, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs. “Greater innovation in development assistance will allow us to do a better job of tackling the world’s most daunting problems, such as a lack of credible health data.”
In addition to improving the recording of births and deaths, Data for Health will support new mechanisms for conducting public health surveys. These surveys will monitor major risk factors for early death, including non-communicable diseases (chronic diseases that are not transmitted from person to person such as cancer and diabetes). With information from these surveys, illness caused by day-to-day behaviors such as tobacco use and poor nutrition habits can be targeted, addressed and prevented. Data for Health will take advantage of the wide-spread use of mobile phone devices in developing countries to enhance the efficiency of traditional household surveys, which are typically time-consuming and expensive.
To assist governments with translating data into policy change, Bloomberg Philanthropies will support training programs for local officials that are led by organizations specializing in data use. This training will enable officials to better interpret data and use it to inform program and policy decisions.
The Data for Health initiative will capitalize on Bloomberg Philanthropies’ data-driven approach, its vast network of experts and the Australian government’s on the ground presence in many countries. Bloomberg Philanthropies uses data to identify some of the world’s most pressing problems, implement solutions, and monitor their progress. In 2014, Fast Company named Bloomberg Philanthropies as one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies for “doing good, methodically.”