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Examining Quality Of Global Health Data

“Although counting the sick and dead in a country can seem quite dull if not morbid, these facts are critical inputs to designing any national health policy, let alone global priorities in health,” Victoria Fan, a research fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD), writes in the center’s “Global Health Policy” blog. “The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) — whose first edition was commissioned by the World Bank in 1991 and whose latest edition came out in December 2012 in the Lancet — was the first systematic attempt to count the sick and dead in a rigorous way,” she notes, adding, “[W]hile this work is a landmark in global health history and deserves praise, the underlying data the researchers use are of poor quality.” Fan gives examples of the “poor ‘raw ingredients,'” highlights Lancet editor Richard Horton’s recent Tweets about global health data, and says she is “encouraged by the Data for Development working group convened by Alex Ezeh of the African Population and Health Resource Center and Amanda Glassman of the Center for Global Development,” which “will shed new light and offer new recommendations in addressing these persistent problems” (3/11).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.