The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the world’s largest ever collection of health data broken down into subcategories such as ethnicity, sex or age.

This so-called disaggregated data is essential for targeting health care where it is needed most and closing the gap between rich and poor, public health specialists say.

Gemu Tiru, director for health system strengthening at the Ministry of Health, Ethiopia, said: “Disaggregating data by age, by sex, by place of residence, wealth or economic or educational status is very important.

“While we have a very rich data depository that we’ve launched today, it is also true that almost half of the countries of the world are unable to report or use disaggregated data across health-related SDGs.”

Samira Asma, WHO assistant director-general of data analytics and delivery for impact

“Disaggregation will help to identify who is left behind.

“Once we identify those population groups, we will design policy programmes or projects that will be targeted to address [them].”

The Health Inequality Data Repository contains nearly 11 million data points within 59 datasets, relating to health topics such as COVID-19child and maternal health, immunisation, and the SDGs, as well as diseases such as HIVtuberculosis and malaria.

It allows users to chart health inequalities across population groups over time, through data that has been broken down according to more than 20 demographic and socioeconomic factors. These range from gender, race and religion, to disability, marital status and education.

“If we only look at averages then it may not provide the complete picture of the situation,” explained WHO health inequality monitoring lead Ahmad Reza Hosseinpoor at a webinar launch on Thursday (20 April).

“We conduct health inequality monitoring to track differences in health across different population subgroups, and this provides evidence on who has been left behind and identifies the situation of inequities.

“This data can then be used to provide us with equity-oriented health policies, programmes and practices and then achieve health equity.”

As well as holding WHO data, the repository, which has been a year in the making, contains data from 15 other sources, including the World Bank, OECD, Eurostat, UNICEF, and other UN agencies.

Analysis of the data shows that the rich-poor gap in health service coverage among women, newborns and children in low- and middle-income countries has nearly halved in the last decade, according to the WHO.

The data also reveals differences in disease prevalence between men and women in wealthy and poor countries. For example, in low-income countries, obesity rates are higher among women than men, while in high-income countries they are the same.

By Ruth Douglas


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