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Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative at JHSPH


Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are a growing burden in low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). In 2016, approximately 31.5 million, or 75%, of all NCD deaths occured in LMICs. Estimates by WHO show increasing trends in NCDs especially in LMICs (World Health Organization, 2018). 

Physical inactivity, poor diet, harmful use of alcohol, and tobacco use are the four most common behavioral risk factors associated with NCDs. 


Current efforts of curtailing the NCD epidemic are hindered by a number of challenges including; high costs of traditional behavioral surveillance methods which rely on in-person surveys, infrequently collected data to monitor population-level risk factors and delays with analyzing and reporting findings to policymakers. With mobile phone subscriptions across LMICs having reached 98.7% as of 2017 (International Telecommunications Union, 2017), digital health technologies present a range of opportunities to share and obtain health information globally. Mobile phone surveys have the potential to improve the timeliness, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of NCD behavioral risk factor data collection, particularly in rural and hard-to-reach areas.


Source: International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication/ICT Development Report and database.