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A commitment to improve global health information

News release

WHO and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding defining areas where they will work together to improve the quality and use of global health estimates to measure the world’s health challenges.

WHO welcomes this agreement that aims to increase transparency, accessibility and consistency of health estimates to help policymakers make informed decisions about what public health programmes should be prioritized and the research that is needed.

“Accurate health statistics are the foundation of a good health system, ” says Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Assistant Director-General for Health Systems and Innovation at WHO. “When we know what makes people ill and why they die, we know where to put resources.”

Today, however, complete health data are rarely available for every population and year. Even when they are available, the data may not be directly comparable year-on-year because they come from different sources such as research projects, household surveys and hospital records, and the findings may vary significantly.

Where gaps in, or no, data exist, statistical models are used to make estimates, often leading to very different results. In this regard, collaboration among WHO, other United Nations agencies and academic institutions such as IHME is essential to improve global health estimates.

By committing to increasing transparency regarding data sources and the methods used to calculate global health estimates, WHO and IHME aim to improve the accuracy and utility of health information to help countries to direct resources where they are most needed.

As part of this collaborative work, WHO and IHME are also working with academics, journal editors, and other partners to develop guidelines for good practice in reporting global health estimates.

The guidelines aim to ensure that published health estimates serve the needs of their 2 primary audiences – policymakers and researchers. They underscore the importance of ensuring that studies of health estimates include information about data sources used, clear explanations of analytical methods, how the new estimates compare to previously published studies, and why they differ.

These guidelines are in the final stage of development and will be published online in the coming months.

About WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the specialized health agency of the United Nations. One of our core mandates is to work with countries to improve their capacity to collect and report on vital statistics such as births and deaths, as well as measuring the burden of hundreds of diseases and injuries.

The Global Health Observatory is WHO's gateway to health-related statistics from around the world. It provides easy online access to country data, statistics and analyses on global, regional and country trends in health.

World Health Statistics is WHO's annual compilation of health-related data for our 194 Member States. The 2015 report will be launched on 13 May.

About IHME

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is a research centre that produces global health analyses and estimates, including regular updates on the Global Burden of Disease, which measures disability and death from a multitude of causes worldwide.

Media contacts:

Christian Lindmeier
Communications Officer
World Health Organization
Mobile: +41 795 006 552