New WHO technical package to help countries improve health data for COVID-19 response and beyond
Today, as part of its commitment to strengthening health information systems and improving health, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, WHO announced a new approach to improving access to life-saving data: the SCORE for Health Data Technical Package. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need for timely and reliable data to drive strategic health action. Too many countries still lack both the infrastructure to routinely gather health data and the analytical capacity to use these data for effective health actions and emergency response.
“Countries must be able to measure progress to make progress,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Particularly during COVID-19, reliable data is the best way to coordinate response efforts and improve health in all areas.”
Accurate health data are necessary to understand specific country needs in order to improve health and save lives. Data also helps direct scarce resources to where they are needed most.
The SCORE (Survey, Count, Optimize, Review, Enable) Technical Package aims to improve the availability of timely, reliable, validated, and comparable health data. For the first time in a single, harmonized package, it represents all the key elements for optimized health information system performance. Simply put, SCORE will help governments around the globe set benchmarks and improve standards in healthcare.
In response to the challenges of data availability highlighted in the WHO World Health Statistics 2020 report, SCORE includes more than 90 universally-accepted tools and standards for health information systems strengthening. “Using data to inform public health priorities and strategies has never been more important,” said Dr Kelly Henning, Director of Public Health Programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “The SCORE Technical Package provides country governments around the world with high-quality, essential technical guidance so that countries can strengthen their own data systems.” WHO is proud to partner with the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative to deliver this timely resource to countries.
Below are some examples of how SCORE can improve individual lives and communities:
- The birth of a child is registered so they can access essential health services, attend school, and apply for a passport;
- A death is registered with cause-of-death accurately captured so that policy-makers have a better understanding of all-cause and COVID-specific mortality and associated risk factors and implement programs and policies to save lives;
- Health data are disaggregated by age, sex and cause of death to illustrate the root causes of health disparities and help direct resources to the most vulnerable groups such as those who do not speak the local language or face stigma and discrimination in their community;
- Health facilities have the capacity to regularly measure the quality of their services, workforce and patient data and can make a compelling case for increased funding to national and international stakeholders;
- Health data are integrated with other sectors so that social determinants of health such as pollution, sanitation and nutrition are addressed to reduce the overall burden of disease.
The package’s initial release includes two documents:
- SCORE Essential Interventions – including an overview of health information systems, underlying elements, and indicators to assess progress with sample actions; and
- SCORE Tools and Standards — including resources to address critical health data gaps and strengthen country health data.
“We must keep score to save lives. WHO is committed to working with countries and partners to rapidly scale up capacity for data collection and use in order to improve policy and performance,” added Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics and Delivery for Impact at WHO. “We must act now to invest in statistical systems in countries, respond to this pandemic and meet the SDGs and the Triple Billion targets. Our window of opportunity is closing, and we cannot wait to address data gaps. Data use to address country needs has to be a priority today.”
Country-owned, disaggregated data will be essential for more resilient and sustainable health systems going forward. COVID-19 is both a wake-up call and a stark reminder of the challenges we still have to address. But it is also an opportunity to build back better through solidarity, information-sharing and collaboration.
SCORE is one example of how a collaborative approach can benefit countries by providing a common set of tools based on shared standards. This package is designed to be practical, actionable and flexible. We will only be successful in combatting COVID-19 if we work together.
Future components of the SCORE Technical Package are due to be released later this year, including the SCORE Assessment Instrument and global, regional and country status reports. Together, these will provide a complete package of information to plan and monitor progress against national and subnational priorities as well as global targets.
 Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative provided funding to support the SCORE for Health Data Technical Package