University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics To Host Conference On Improving Calculation of Global Health Data
About 300 public health officials and researchers from around the world gathered on Wednesday for a two-day conference aimed at improving methods for collecting, analyzing and disseminating global health data, including information on HIV/AIDS, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports. The University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which was created in large part by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is hosting the conference, which is co-sponsored by the Lancet.
The conference will focus on the next phase of the World Health Organization's Global Burden of Disease Project, created by Alan Lopez, an expert on international health at the University of Queensland-Australia, and IHME Director Christopher Murray. The project seeks to establish more effective methods for analyzing disease trends, establishing health priorities, identifying the effectiveness of disease-fighting projects and assessing health delivery and quality, the Post-Intelligencer reports. One of the project's creations is the disability-adjusted life year, or DALY, which combines morbidity and mortality rates to provide a more complete depiction of the effect of a disease (Paulson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/9).
Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, said that there has been an "enormous rumor mill about potential rivalries between individuals and organizations" about the way statistics are reported, adding, "I think the conference is very much about saying, 'Let's kill these rumors and try to build a proper cooperative relationship'" (Doughton, Seattle Times, 4/9). Murray said, "There's a lot of good work being done out there, but it's being done by many groups who don't talk to each other ... and who often use different yardsticks to assess their efforts" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/9).
UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, who will lead a session at the conference, plans to work with Murray and his team to tease out more detail from UNAIDS statistics, the Times reports. Piot said that he also is eager to use new methods developed at IHME to determine the effectiveness of programs created to slow the spread of the epidemic. The Gates Foundation also has asked IHME to assess its $258 million Avahan program, an HIV-prevention program targeted at Indian sex workers and their clients (Seattle Times, 4/9).
Lopez said, "We're still quite ignorant about the health conditions of the developing world, but I'd say we're a little less ignorant than we were 15 years ago." He added that a "good example" of a disease that needs improved data reporting methods is malaria, adding, "We still don't really know how many people die every year from malaria ... or if it's increasing or decreasing" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4/9).