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Data for Health

Today, approximately half of all deaths in the world go unrecorded, and health policy decisions are often based on inadequate information. Data for Health, co-funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Australian government, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helps low- and middle-income countries collect better public health data. That work became especially urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bloomberg Philanthropies provided technical assistance to support 32 national governments improve their use of data and gain a better understanding of COVID-19’s impact.

Data for Health works with governments to strengthen and standardize birth and death records and to better inform policymaking and improve public health outcomes. To date, countries representing more than 4 billion people have worked with Bloomberg Philanthropies to receive technical assistance to improve their public health data – including by collecting data on deaths in rural areas for the first time ever. More than 5 million death records have been newly collected or improved, and more than 30,000 health professionals have been trained to better collect or analyze related information. Here are examples of improved death records in three of the countries where we work.


The Critical Role of Data in Fighting COVID-19.

In select countries, Data for Health also tests new ways of monitoring risk factors for early death. The initiative also supports cancer registries that track diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes at the country level. As part of its newest phase, Data for Health has expanded its partnership to more than 40 countries reaching nearly 5 billion people; we now have not only multi-year comprehensive partnerships with governments (25 countries), but are now also including support for smaller scale time-bound projects (15 countries so far, with more planned). The smaller scale projects are supported through the Global Grants Program.

Governments have successfully implemented improvements to their health data systems, including national use of hospital administrators to register births and deaths (Rwanda), establishing new units within the government to analyze health data (Maharashtra state, India), adopting on-going trainings to use data to inform policymaking (Zambia), and building electronic death registration systems (Peru).


1. Support collection of country-level death and birth data:

Funding staff in government offices to:

  • Assess current birth and death data systems
  • Identify gaps between current systems and best practices
  • Fund international experts to work with in-country staff to improve data systems, including new cancer registries that track diagnosis, treatment, and outcomes at the country level
  • Support the development of a library of best-practice materials for our countries (and all countries globally)
  • Provide expertise for countries to conduct reviews of their health data laws and support for improvement if needed


2. Better monitor major risk factors for early death

Making data collection and analysis of risk factors for early death from noncommunicable disease more efficient and effective by:

  • Funding international experts to develop new mobile phone-based surveys
  • Supporting technical development of surveys in local languages
  • Paying for in-country staff to administer survey and analyze results


3. Better use data to inform policy priorities, track trends, and plan interventions

Funding staff in government offices to:

  • Assess current use of data for policymaking
  • Identify opportunities to use data to tackle local health challenges (e.g. smoke-free laws in Shanghai)
  • Provide trainings, translation of materials, and new technology (e.g. software and website templates)


Using Data for Global Public Health

Top photo: Janvier Ngabonziza, right, conducts a “verbal autopsy” interview with Lyiza Uwimbabazi about her sister why passed away recently in Rwamagana, Rwanda. Data for Health supports many partner countries to use verbal autopsies to capture causes of death for deaths that happen outside of hospital settings – often a majority of deaths in many Data for Health partner countries. Photo credit: Felipe Dana/AP Photo