The Imperfect World of Global Health Estimates

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Summary Points:

  •   Global estimates of population health are currently needed because of the shortage of adequate quality population-based data. These estimates are complex, because they need to combine relatively complete data from industrialised countries with sometimes very scanty data from developing countries.
  •   Two major sources of such estimates are agencies within the United Nations system and (mostly northern) academic institutions, which differ in their approaches.
  •   Appropriate strategies for ensuring the robustness and transparency of estimates are very important. Long-term strategies must be geared towards improving the quantity and quality of bottom-up data, rather than developing ever more complex estimation methods.
  •   Ultimately, the world must be able to measure population health from reliable individual data rather than relying on estimates.

This paper is part of a PLoS Medicine cluster of articles discussing the current state of global health estimates and debating the way into the future.

Related papers:

1. Boerma T, Mathers C, Abouzahr C (2010) WHO and Global Health Monitoring: The Way Forward. PLoS Med 7: e373. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed. 1000373

2. Murray C, Lopez A (2010) Production and Analysis of Health Indicators: The Role of Academia. PLoS Med 7: e1004. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001004

3. Sankoh O (2010) Global Health Estimates: Stronger Collaboration Needed With Low- and Middle-Income Countries. PLoS Med 7: e1005. doi:10.1371/ journal.pmed.1001005

4. Graham W, Adjei S (2010) A Call for Responsible Estimation of Global Health. PLoS Med 7: 1003. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001003

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