Skip to content

Data Collection and Analysis: Successes and Challenges

Guiding questions:

  • Do you have the data that you need to make informed decisions about the interventions you are planning or have done?
  • What data do you have? What data do you need?
  • In an ideal world, what kind of data system would you like to have?
  • How would you access the data?
  • What are the current barriers?
  • We will also shed light on ways to access data, visual forms of data and the concrete outcomes and impacts of data (cf. Gapminder).


Three basic factors for establishing a good data base (BD) and to enhance interoperability of data bases

  • 1) Structure: Define fields and subfields
  • 2) Outcomes: what should do we expect from such as data base/ search engines
  • 3) Definition of structured vocabulary

Develop a strategy

  • 1) Produce evidence: Collect binary data to produce evidence taking into account) differences (gender, age, ethnic group)
  • 2) Develop tools to better present and use data, use guides to use this data and to make gender-based analysis.
  • 3) Need to define research targets based on these assumptions
  • 4) Take into account the involvement of different sectors, including civil society and academia.

Institutionalize this process

  • Difficulty to integrate different databases due to the lack of basic indicators (such difficulty was encountered during the influenza pandemic in Mexico). 
  • Data validation and internal consistency: It is important to acknowledge that incomplete and unreliable data exist within databases.
  • Need for more transparency in databases which is expensive and time-consuming.
  • It would be useful to establish an institutionalized database for health, available for all different sectors.
  • In 1995, the Regional Core Health Data and Country Profile Initiative was launched by PAHO to monitor the attainment of health goals and compliance with the mandates of the Member States, in addition to ensuring the availability of a basic set of data to be collected annually that would make it possible to characterize the health situation and trends in the countries of the Region of the Americas. However, external data is still being referred to when issuing papers or recommendations, including some that are inconsistent with the Regional Core Health Data and Country Profile Initiative.

Research based on curiosity vs. research based on need

  • Data bases need should respond to necessities. Research in PAHO is often based on data from external sources (such as UNICEF for child mortality)
  • It would be useful to publish a Regional Mortality Data Base to ‘explore’ existing data and discuss its institutional value – not to satisfy ‘personal’ research interests but rather to systematically keep records of health status and to institutionally define priorities of technical cooperation. This relates to the question of decision-making processes. Do we really make informed decisions? Do we use data to make decisions?
  • Evaluate the countries' willingness to share their data: Is this data reliable?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 March 2012 08:21

Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization
525 Twenty-third Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20037, United States of America
Tel.: +1 (202) 974-3000 Fax: +1 (202) 974-3663

© Pan American Health Organization. All rights reserved.