Health is a fundamental human right and a key indicator of sustainable development. However, measuring and monitoring health is not an easy task. There are many challenges and uncertainties involved in collecting, analyzing, and interpreting health data from different sources and contexts. That is why health estimates are essential for providing a comprehensive and comparable picture of the health situation and trends across countries and regions.
Health estimates are statistical data on health and health-related indicators, such as mortality, morbidity, risk factors, health service coverage, and health systems. They are produced by applying scientific methods and models to synthesize data from multiple sources, such as surveys, censuses, vital registration systems, health facility records, administrative databases, and scientific studies. They are also adjusted for data quality issues, such as incompleteness, misclassification, underreporting, or bias.
Health estimates are not direct measurements of health, but rather estimates based on the best available evidence. They have inherent uncertainties and limitations that need to be considered when interpreting and using them. They are also subject to revisions as new data and methods become available.
Who produces health estimates and how?
There are many organizations and institutions that produce health estimates for different purposes and audiences. Some of the most prominent ones include:
- The World Health Organization (WHO), which is the leading authority on global health issues and the primary source of health estimates for its 194 Member States. WHO produces various types of health estimates, such as the Global Health Estimates (GHE), the World Health Statistics (WHS), the Global Burden of Disease (GBD), the Global Health Observatory (GHO), and the Health Statistics and Information Systems (HSIS). These estimates cover a wide range of topics, such as life expectancy, causes of death, disease burden, risk factors, health service coverage, health systems performance, and health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) indicators.
- The United Nations (UN) agencies and inter-agency groups, such as the UN Population Division (UNPD), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (IGME), the Maternal Mortality Estimation Inter-Agency Group (MMEIG), and the Global Network for Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS). These agencies and groups produce health estimates related to their specific mandates and areas of expertise, such as population dynamics, child health, maternal health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, nutrition, immunization, education, gender equality, etc .
- The academic and research institutions, such as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) at the World Health Organization, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and others. These institutions produce health estimates based on their own research projects or collaborations with other partners. They often use innovative methods and data sources to address specific research questions or gaps in knowledge. Some of their well-known products include the Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD), the Global Cancer Observatory (GCO), the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), the Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx), etc .
The production of health estimates involves several steps, such as:
- Defining the scope and objectives of the estimation process
- Identifying and collecting relevant data sources
- Assessing and adjusting data quality
- Applying statistical methods and models to estimate indicators
- Validating and evaluating results
- Disseminating and communicating findings
The production of health estimates requires collaboration and coordination among various stakeholders, such as data providers, estimation experts, policy makers, and users. It also requires adherence to standards and principles of good practice, such as transparency, accountability, rigor, and ethics.
Why are health estimates important and how are they used?
Health estimates are important for providing a comprehensive and comparable picture of the health situation and trends across countries and regions. They can help to:
- Monitor progress towards national, regional, and global health goals, such as the SDGs
- Identify gaps, inequalities, and priorities in health needs, resources, and outcomes
- Inform policy making, planning, and resource allocation for health interventions and systems
- Evaluate the effectiveness and impact of health interventions and systems
- Advocate for health as a human right and a key component of sustainable development
- Raise awareness and mobilize action for health issues and challenges
Health estimates are used by various actors and audiences, such as:
- Governments and public authorities, who use health estimates to design, implement, and evaluate health policies, programs, and services
- International and regional organizations, who use health estimates to support and coordinate global and regional health initiatives and partnerships
- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society groups, who use health estimates to advocate for and deliver health interventions and services to vulnerable and marginalized populations
- Researchers and academics, who use health estimates to conduct and disseminate scientific studies and analyses on health topics
- Media and journalists, who use health estimates to report and communicate on health issues and events
- General public and individuals, who use health estimates to access and understand information on their own health and the health of others
Health estimates are statistical data on health and health-related indicators for countries and regions. They are produced by applying scientific methods and models to synthesize data from multiple sources. They are not direct measurements of health, but rather estimates based on the best available evidence. They have inherent uncertainties and limitations that need to be considered when interpreting and using them. They are also subject to revisions as new data and methods become available.
Health estimates are essential for providing a comprehensive and comparable picture of the health situation and trends across countries and regions. They can help to monitor progress, identify gaps, inform policy, evaluate impact, advocate for health, raise awareness, and mobilize action. They are used by various actors and audiences, such as governments, international organizations, NGOs, researchers, media, public, and individuals.
We hope this blog post has helped you learn more about health estimates, what they are, how they are produced, why they matter, and how they are used. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you.