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Health & COVID 19


The health & COVID-19 thematic module is designed to cover research, public health work, and provision of primary healthcare, all of which draw substantially upon data. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of reliable, accessible, and trusted health data to enable coordinated action. The governance and reusability of data in the health sector must combine respect for individual privacy rights with a focus on population and patient health. Data can be used to support access to healthcare across the many different healthcare systems of the world.

The health & COVID-19 module will draw on both primary indicators and secondary data sources to assess the the availability of:

  • Vital statistics (primary indicator);
  • Healthcare system capacity data (secondary source);
  • Real-time healthcare system capacity data (primary indicator).

This module also incorporates indicators specifically focused on COVID-19, which assess the availability of:

  • Vaccination data (primary indicator);
  • Testing data (secondary source);
  • Infection and mortality data (secondary source).

We will be using secondary data from the Open Data Inventory to provide continuity with the ODB health indicators.

Prospective Indicators

Health Data and the Public Good

Health data is an important tool for achieving SDG 3, "Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages." Achieving this goal requires understanding and improving population health. Data from contemporary civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) systems are foundational for tracking progress on mortality (SDG 3.1, 3.2, 3.4, 3.6, 3.9). CRVS systems also provide basic health information that supports research on vaccines and medicines (SDG 3.B) and strengthen the capacity for managing national and global health risks (SDG 3.D).

Another aspect of achieving SDG 3 entails distributing healthcare resources equitably. Healthcare system capacity data supports governments and other actors in doing so—a goal particularly important in the midst of a global public health crisis. As the WHO COVID-19 Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan (SPRP 2021) notes, "Health care systems and workers...are under extreme pressure in many countries in terms of capacity and capabilities, financial resources, and access to vital commodities and supplies including medical oxygen" (8). Real-time or very recent data about a healthcare system's capacity is critical to directing patients to available care and distributing resources equitably and effectively. Data about healthcare system capacity and performance also plays a key role in helping determine the quality of available healthcare services.

Successfully managing and ending the COVID-19 pandemic is critical for ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages (SDG 3); relatedly, SDG target 3.3 calls for combating communicable diseases with specific attention to epidemics. To fight the virus, many governments have turned to data as a key tool, adopting exceptional measures to access and process datasets and establishing new patterns for publishing and communicating data, often including daily or weekly updates. Data on infection rates and mortality has been widely used, and scientific data sharing has been critical to efforts to tackle the spread of the virus. Public data on healthcare capacities, including ICU beds, healthcare professionals, testing, and personal protective equipment, has led to the scrutiny of public health systems, procurement processes, and global supply chains.

Accurate and timely data about vaccine distribution and rates of vaccination are and will continue to be a critical global tool for containing and eliminating the pandemic, particularly as the development and manufacture of vaccines is limited to comparatively few countries. Consequently, the global vaccine rollout is and will continue to be uneven. At the same time, the virus itself continues to change, producing new variants, and there is still much that is not known about the duration and efficacy of the existing vaccines. As with testing and treatment, disparities are likely to correspond to social determinants of health, such as location, poverty, and marginalization.