- 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.