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Foundation Launches $100M Initiative to Improve Public Health Data Collection

March 24, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Bloomberg Philanthropies, a foundation created by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the Australian government, are launching a $100 million initiative aimed to improve public health data collection in 20 low- and middle-income countries.

The project, Data for Health, 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, officials say.

Each year the World Health Organization estimates that 65 percent of all deaths worldwide go unrecorded. Millions more deaths lack a documented cause. This gap in data creates major obstacles for understanding and addressing public health problems. “Reliable data is absolutely essential to problem solving, and nowhere is it more important than in public health,” Bloomberg said in a statement. “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.”

In addition to improving the recording of births and deaths, Data for Health will aim to 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). Data for Health will also look to take advantage of the widespread use of mobile phone devices in developing countries to enhance the efficiency of traditional household surveys, which are typically time-consuming and expensive.

What’s more, 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.

Program partners on this initiative include:

  • The University of Melbourne, Australia
  • CDC Foundation
  • Union North America
  • Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
  • World Health Organization

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