Better Health Through Better Data: Sharing the Results of the Data Impact Program

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the CDC Foundation kicked off a partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies to launch the Data for Health Initiative, which aims to use data in low- and middle-income countries to decrease the 29.4 million deaths that go unrecorded each year, improve the health of the public and save lives. Today we’re proud to share that the ongoing results and stories from one component of the initiative, known as the Data Impact Program, are now available on a new website developed with Vital Strategies.

“The Data Impact Program builds capacity to produce and disseminate information to save lives,” said Kimberly Koporc, Public Health Bulletin project manager. “All three components of the Data Impact Program complement one another perfectly. The Data to Policy program trains ministry of health staff to analyze and use data to inform policy. The Scientific Communications Program trains staff to communicate the results of the analyses, and the national Public Health Bulletins provide the channel for communication to health workers, media and the public.”

As you explore the new site, you’ll get an in-depth look at the Data Impact Program’s key CDC-led components, which include the development of National Public Health Bulletins, the implementation of the Data to Policy training program and the rollout of scientific communications training and mentoring program.

The first of these, Public Health Bulletins, serve as the voice of the government, alerting professionals and citizens to public health threats, offering updates on the control of infectious diseases and other health problems, and providing clinical recommendations and other guidance. Thanks to our combined efforts, public health bulletins have now been launched or strengthened in six countries: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ghana, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

Establishing a Public Health Bulletin is no small task and certainly not one that can best be done alone, so a community of practice was created for teams of national Public Health Bulletin editors to provide mutual support and technical assistance.  These editors participate in a monthly teleconference and communicate regularly via an instant messaging group. As an extra measure of support, CDC released A National Public Health Bulletin: Considerations for Its Development for governments interested in producing their own Public Health Bulletins.

In another example of the power of collaboration, CDC, the CDC Foundation and Vital Strategies teamed up to create the Data to Policy (D2P) program, which trains government health staff to use quality data to develop policies aimed at improving the public’s health. The program takes place over three to four months and involves multiple training sessions and a mentoring phase before embarking on the final implementation phase, which includes a presentation to policy makers during a government-supported forum.

Recent policy briefs that have originated from the D2P program and made significant impact include one that led to improved tuberculosis screening and treatment in Zambia, and another that improved implementation of the varicella vaccine in Shanghai.

And as policy makers embark on the increased use of data in their decision-making, they also need to be able to communicate the findings effectively. Therefore another critical part of the Data Impact Program is the scientific communication courses for senior staff, including  those who work on Public Health Bulletins or on their country’s civil registration and vital statistics system.

Working with a ‘training of trainers’ model, CDC and CDC Foundation have recruited in-country experts to serve as mentors for this scientific communications training. In addition to leading the workshops, these mentors coach program participants as they draft scientific manuscripts, abstracts and posters, and then submit those drafts to peer-reviewed scientific journals, public health bulletins and scientific conferences—with over 50 manuscripts accepted or published to date. By engaging in-country mentors rather than relying on external consultants, we have been able to help ministries build a more sustainable model for the future.

The Data Impact Program builds capacity to produce and disseminate information to save lives. All three components of the Data Impact Program complement one another perfectly.

The Data Impact Program also features several components developed by our partners at Vital Strategies, such as the development of data portals for ministry of health use, a Data Analytics Methods training workshop and technical assistance to support the creation of public health intelligence units. Details on all these program components are featured on the new website.

The Data for Health Initiative is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Australian government. We’re so grateful that our partnerships with Bloomberg Philanthropies, CDC, Vital Strategies, local governments and other partners have led to the achievements we’re sharing with you today—and we’re excited to play a part as this initiative continues to improve the health of over a billion people worldwide.


Emily Bucherati
Emily Bucherati is a senior communication officer for the CDC Foundation.