Data are essential to a well-functioning health system. Over the past decade great strides have been made in the development of data infrastructures in countries around the globe. Global health professionals place increasing emphasis on the need to use this data to improve programs and thereby promote better health outcomes.
This emphasis on data to support health systems is emerging alongside an explosion of data availability across the planet. In both scope and extent this is nothing short of data tsunami. Identifying data that could support or improve public health is challenging because of the sheer scale of this massive wave of information.
What is needed, and urgently, is an approach for systematically identifying data hidden in this tsunami that can enrich and transform the flow of information yielded by health systems. Data science is a process for finding, using, and communicating actionable information from the tsunami. It makes possible use of the ever-growing amount of data in the world to strengthen and expand the insights yielded by health systems. For instance, data science has been used to bring together data from household surveys, routine health information systems (RHIS), and non-traditional sources like mobile phone data to model outbreaks of disease or predict effects of health interventions. MEASURE Evaluation is exploring the potential of data science to strengthen health systems and improve monitoring and evaluation.
Data science is an emerging approach and MEASURE Evaluation is exploring and promoting its use by:
- Identifying best practices for data science in global health;
- Developing tools that facilitate the management, analysis, and communication of data using a data science framework;
- Publishing research showcasing innovative data science applications in global health;
- Providing technical assistance on data science.