Accuracy of countries’ health data must improve, warns WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said a recent study published in The Lancet on which countries carry the largest disease burden highlights the need to improve health data in many countries.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said recent findings as to which countries carry the largest disease burden highlights the need to improve health data in many countries.

Discussing the Global Burden of Disease 2010 (GBD), published yesterday in The Lancet (December 13), the WHO highlighted how only 34 countries, representing 15% of the world’s population, currently produce high quality cause-of-death data and almost all of these are in Europe and the Americas.

The organisation criticised the current over reliance on statistical modelling to estimate disease burdens and called for the accuracy of countries’ health data to be improved.

A WHO spokesperson said: “The WHO is committed to working closely with developing countries to improve their health information systems including birth and death registration. The WHO welcomed GBD, which has relied on the contributions of many researchers and scientists, including some from WHO

“There was close collaboration between the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation [IHME] and WHO staff and the GBD results are similar to WHO’s recent estimate. In yet many other areas, the GBD results update, and are broadly similar to, previous WHO analyses.”

The statement added that academic institutions such as IHME have a strong interest in developing novel, cutting-edge methods for their research.

“This can result in scientific advances which may influence official UN statistics, once replicated and evaluated by other experts,” the spokesperson added.

In an effort to provide the world with the best possible comparable global health statistics, the WHO further announced it will host a meeting in February 2013 to take stock of existing and new approaches in global health estimation and to discuss ways to improve current practices. Meeting participants will include chairs of key WHO disease expert groups, relevant UN agencies, donors, and representatives from countries and academia including IHME.

The spokesperson said the WHO will “work continuously with experts from academic institutions to develop and improve methods and to take into account new developments in data and analytic methods.”

The spokesperson added: “We anticipate that we will make use of many of the GBD analyses, and that others will influence further research and scientific debate towards improving global health estimates.”