Health is vital to our lives. We live in a world where we are bombarded by information from multiple sources. This makes it challenging to find the balance between the right amount of knowledge and understanding to support you in making the best decisions for yourself, your family, and your community.
Data + Health is a program to help improve health outcomes through improving access to and use of digital tools such as mobile phones and electronic medical records. It is one of three programs funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
It runs three projects – a national research project to develop models for using information technology to support population health; a national technical assistance (TA) project to build the capacity of local organizations to help implement data-driven interventions and support the development of electronic medical record systems; and a TA program that uses a range of approaches to develop policies and regulations and improve implementation of evidence-based practices.
Today’s digital world is increasingly complex and overwhelming. Data+Health aims to provide a balance of information and guidance in helping you make sense of it all. It seeks to provide you with easy access to high-quality data and information that can empower you to make informed choices and improve your health. We’re looking to share information with you that we’ve gathered and analyzed to offer you tools, information and knowledge to improve your health.
How does Data + Health work?
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation invests in innovative ways to tackle global challenges like the Ebola crisis, malaria, maternal and child mortality, water sanitation, and hygiene. A key part of their strategy is investing in new technologies, especially those that can make people’s lives better and save lives. The foundation believes there are lots of promising solutions around, but unless we can access them, we cannot be sure they will make a difference.
So Data + Health is working to overcome one of the main barriers to access and uptake of these technologies: building the capacity to implement them. In the case of the Ebola outbreak, the biggest barrier was the lack of data. Without data on how much virus is circulating and what parts of the country were affected, decision-makers couldn’t target resources effectively. The same goes for other public health issues where data on the scope of the problem and how it has changed over time would enable the most efficient response.
Data + Health works in three ways
First, it helps build capacity for developing effective public health interventions by supporting organizations in low and middle-income countries to strengthen the capabilities of existing institutions. This includes developing local capacity for data collection and analysis, developing electronic medical record systems, improving the quality of vital statistics, and supporting policymakers to develop the enabling environment for these efforts.
Second, it provides technical assistance and training in key areas to help local organizations deliver data-driven interventions. There are four core areas: building capacity for collecting, analyzing, and using data, developing electronic medical records, improving the quality of vital statistics, and supporting policymakers to develop the enabling environment.
Finally, it supports policy, regulatory and legal reforms needed to make the use of data in the health sector more common and routine, and to encourage its use in a range of settings.
Three core areas of Data + Health
- Data is the science and practice of collecting, storing, analyzing, and using information to make better decisions.
- Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.
- Healthcare, is a system of prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and palliation for all diseases, injuries, deformities, and physical conditions.
What can be included in your health data?
Health data can include things like blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol levels, body weight, height, and heart rate. It can include information about your lifestyle. These are all examples of how health data can be collected.
The types of health data collected vary from one part of the world to another. In Europe, most of the data is collected via paper forms, while in other parts of the world, the data is collected via mobile devices or computer programs.
Health data is information on:
- Your health history
- Any current health problems
- Current medications
- Tests, scans, treatments, procedures, and appointments that you have received
The type of health data depends on where it has been recorded. For example, general practice data covers general practices and hospital outpatient departments, and other health professionals, such as physiotherapists, psychologists, pharmacists, and optometrists, may hold their own health data. This includes information you give your health professional when you have been referred to them, such as your concerns about your mental or physical health.
Ways in which you can look after your data or health
Use an app.
Data and health apps are available from most app stores. Many of these provide free and low-cost versions of services, such as weight monitoring and reminders to take medication. Check the app to see if it has been reviewed by the relevant regulator and the medical community (eg, NHS Digital and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency).
Keep a record of your health.
If you use an app, ensure you take the necessary precautions. For example, make sure you remove the data from the app when you go on holiday. The same goes for taking health records on a mobile phone. There are several options available for storing information securely.
Get a handle on data protection.
Some data and health apps request access to certain parts of your device and/or your personal information. Read the terms and conditions of the app carefully to make sure they are acceptable. You can also ask for more information directly from the app developer.
Be careful with your health records.
Make sure the data you provide is correct and that you have permission to use it. You may need to obtain a court order to allow you to access it. Once you have done this, check that the data is secure and stored properly. Various companies offer data masking solutions that are essential for the health industry.
Keep copies of your records.
Ensure you have copies of your health records that you can give to the appropriate authorities in the event of a medical emergency.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions, and data contained in these publications are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of Credihealth and the editor(s).
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