IDSB04 Chapter 5
Challenges of health data
•Summary statistics of average life expectancy or infant mortality rates do not reflect
variations within counties by social class, geographic location, occupation, and other
•Data costs money and the higher the quality, the greater the cost. In general, where
disease occurrence is highest, the numbers are the least trustworthy.
•The use of health statistics rest on two assumptions:
1.Disease and death are medicalized processes that are certified by trained
medical practitioners and publicly recorded.
2.There is an agreed upon nosology – a disease classification process
universally applied by doctors through common diagnostic procedures. (ICD –
International classification of disease)
Uses and Limitations of Health Data
•Health statistics, including the infant mortality rate, cases of notifiable illnesses,
numbers and causes of deaths, and certain health services, such as immunization
coverage, together with a few socioeconomic, geographic, and other measures,
typically make up the raw material for various health policy decisions.
oCountries such as Cuba and Sweden interpret health policy thought a more
comprehensive array of data such as influence of economics, educational,
occupational and housing conditions on health.
Gauging Trends and Needs
•A primary reason for health data is to track trends in population health status at
the level of countries, geographic regions, and subpopulations (such as particular
age groups or marginalized populations)
•The International Health Regulations (IHR) require that national governments
notify the WHO of cases or outbreaks of certain diseases, and of measures taken to
prevent their spread.
•Under the new IHR – a public health emergency is considered if it (A) constitutes a
public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease; and
(B) potentially requires a coordinated international response.
Limitations on Health Data