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International Health

Better Data for Better Health: Data for Health Initiative

Department of International Health faculty work to find ways of using mobile phones to collect better and more timely non-communicable diseases—part of Bloomberg Philanthropies' Data for Health initiative

NCD Data for Health

The Department's Data for Health Team with partners from CDC, WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies

June 24, 2016—On Tuesday, Bloomberg Philanthropies announced the 18 countries who are partnering with its Data for Health (D4H) initiative. D4H seeks to improve vital registration systems, expand current non-communicable disease (NCD) surveillance efforts, and provide data analysis training to governments in low- and middle-income countries. D4H will support governments and public health leaders in developing the tools and training to collect better data, ultimately leading to improved public health policies and outcomes. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 65% of all deaths worldwide—35 million each year—go unrecorded. And among the deaths that do have a death certificate, about three-quarters lack a specific cause of death—meaning that public health leaders often don’t know what diseases people may be dying of prematurely and how to target their responses. In response to these devastating statistics, Bloomberg Philanthropies, in partnership with the Australian government, launched a four-year, $100 million initiative called Data for Health in March 2015

Health Systems Program faculty in the Department are supporting the Bloomberg initiative through research and development of tools and methods for gathering more accurate and timely information on non-communicable diseases through the use of mobile phone surveys. Currently, NCDs are annually responsible for more global deaths than communicable diseases—with an increasing burden in low- and middle-income countries. Approximately two-thirds of NCD deaths are attributed to four modifiable behavioral risk factors: physical inactivity, dietary risk, alcohol consumption and tobacco use. Current efforts of curtailing the NCD epidemic are hindered by high costs of traditional surveillance methodology, infrequent collection and monitoring of population-level risk factors and delays with analyzing and reporting findings to policymakers. In response to these challenges, Johns Hopkins University faculty members will be conducting mobile phone surveys on the four major risk factors, with goals of providing more cost-efficient, timely and accurate health data, thus contributing to reducing the public health burden in 10 of the countries partnering with Bloomberg in the D4H initiative.

The Johns Hopkins’ D4H team is led by Professor Adnan Hyder, Health Systems Program Director. The team also includes International Health faculty members Dr. Dustin Gibson, Dr. Alain Labrique and Dr. George Pariyo, and Dr. Saifuddin Ahmed from Population, Family and Reproductive Health, and Joseph Ali, JD, from the JHU Berman Institute of Bioethics.

The team is collaborating with researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the CDC-Foundation, and the World Health Organization (WHO). Together, the team hopes to assist Bloomberg in its aim to help countries acquire more quality data at a lower cost, leading to better programs, improved health outcomes, and better quality of life for people in the partnering countries.