18 Feb 2013, BioSpectrum Bureau , BioSpectrum
Singapore: At a recent meeting hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) global leaders in health statistics discussed the future possibilities of collaboration to improve current practices in health estimates. The meeting saw participation from representatives of the WHO, the United Nations Population Division and other UN agencies, the World Bank, development foundations, academic institutions and scientific journals, who are committed to working together closely for better calculation, sharing and communication of estimates of health indicators.
Dr Ties Boerma, director, Health Statistics and Information Systems, WHO, said that, "More than 100 countries do not have a system that registers births and deaths and only 34 countries, representing just 15 percent of the world's population, produce quality cause-of-death data. Accurate health data is critical for a better understanding of the health situation and to determine where we need to focus attention and resources."
In an effort to provide the world with the best possible, comparable global health statistics, participants agreed to work together for regular, more formalized interaction between United Nations agencies and academic groups from around the world working on global health estimates. It was also deicdeed to increase investment in country health information systems to reduce reliance on statistical models and inclusion of a target in the post-2015 development agenda for civil registration and vital statistics systems.
Furthermore greater investment in training and tools to enhance the capacity to produce, interpret and use estimates in developing countries and better sharing of data and methods of estimation among scientists, as well as better communication of data to policymakers and the general public were also decided at the meeting. The meeting also highlighted that regions where there are no accurate data, continued to use statistical modelling to predict levels and trends and this led to large uncertainities.
Professor Hans Rosling, co-chair of the week's Global Health Estimates meeting and founder of Gapminder Foundation, said that, "Health data should be made more accessible and easier to use through simple messages and effective visualizations. We must avoid statisticians just talking to themselves. A lot of people are interested in this information but they should not have to be advanced statisticians to understand and use it."