Thursday, 9 June 2016

From Mere Health Statistics to Real Health Data by @AtulVB

The article was first published on Mr. Atul Bengeri's - LinkedIn Pulse. The article is republished here with the authors' permission

The Health Statistics play a major role in deciding the Health Policies of Nations, no doubt they provide the insights into the health parameters in question and health statistics such as Rates, Ratio, Incidence, Prevalence and Life Tables are needed to be formed into indicators of progress of the nation in terms of improvement of the factors in consideration.

The question is – is mere statistics enough or is there something more to it?

As we move from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – this question becomes more imperative!

According to WHO, Health is defined as “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. 1

Health is also identified the state of “not well”, “ill “or “morbidity” or “sickness”. Further “death”, which is caused by illness or sickness, reflects the condition of Health. Hence measurement of “Mortality” and “Morbidity” reveals of Health condition of a community.2

Statistics definitely provide a macro-level / micro-level understanding of the situation and brings in quantitative pointer to a qualitative, exhaustive and comprehensive activity. Year-on-year the quantitative pointer is kept as the reference. Any deviation from it is representative of the growth or decline of the parameters in consideration.

Such laser sharp focus on quantitative data is the hallmark for Population Census, Surveys and even Market Research – where absolute number, a figure in percentage is the gospel truth.

What about Health / Medical Data of the population? What about the Medical History? What about the Medical Condition – improvement / degradation?

The last point gets easily converted into an explainable number or a percentage as an indicator, but what about the relapse or repeat condition of the same person – it’s again… just a number!  

Limitations of data especially in developing countries are a real concern, as available data is not reliable and post-2015 presents an opportunity to think beyond what data is available so that countries can invest in capacity building to get it.3

Alongside the number comes a lot of health and health-related data, but with the focus being statistics, basic essential health data is obviously missed out.

Non-communicable disease continues to be an important public health problem in India, being responsible for a major proportion of mortality and morbidity. Surveillance of NCDs and their risk factors should also become an integral function of health systems. Evidence based clinical practice and appropriate use of technologies should be promoted at all levels of health care, including tertiary services.4

With the focus on Non-Communicable diseases (NCDs) – it is imperative we focus on the Healthcare & Medical Data for Clinical outcomes and not mere Health Information for Management Systems.

Ageing Population is one of the major concern globally, more so in India. It is now recognized that while both developed and developing countries are experiencing growing proportions of elderly, developing countries currently are ageing faster than developed countries. In India, the proportion of the population aged 60 years and above was 7 per cent in 2009 (88 million) and is expected to increase to 20 per cent (315 million) by the year 2050. 7

As per a study conducted 5, among the most significant findings that emerged was the incompleteness of data on the burdens of access and affordability among elderly populations in India. A major reason for this is that routine health data collection in India is not designed to reflect or characterize pathological progression. Many routine data collection procedures (National Sample Surveys, Census data, or death certificates) in India do not capture pathological progression nor do they disaggregate morbidity and disability outcomes among the elderly. 5

Further research, especially qualitative research, is needed to explore the depth of the problems of the elderly. 6

With a rise in the Ageing Population, it is all the more important to look at the efficacy of the health data collected than mere health statistic data and a Longitudinal Study along with Cross-Sectional Study is needed for an efficient health data repository.

With the advent of new age technology: connected technology, Connected Health has become pervasive and with embedded systems and IoT taking center-stage, it is all the more essential to focus on the Data and not mere Number! And when I say ‘Data’ it is ‘Health Data’.

And last, but not the lease – the necessity for increased clinical / medical research in today’s evidence based approach makes it is all the more important to focus on the fundamental health data collection, collation, transformation and consolidation to begin with leading to Analysis, Research and building the knowledge base for Healthcare / Medical Data Management.

Looking at the underlining need for Health / Healthcare Data, we need to move from just Statistical Data to Meaningful Data – not to mistake ‘Meaningful use of Data’!

  1. World Health Organization (WHO)
  2. CIGI, TISS, KDI, Post-2015 Development Goals, Targets and Indicators: Indian Perspectives, Mumbai, India / Meeting Report, August, 2012
  3. An Overview of the Burden of Non- Communicable Diseases in India – R Prakash Upadhyay. Iranian J Publ Health, Vol. 41, No.3, 2012, pp.1-8
  4. Health of the Elderly in India: Challenges of Access and Affordability. Subhojit Dey, Devaki Nambiar, J. K. Lakshmi, Kabir Sheikh, and K. Srinath Reddy. National Research Council (US) Panel on Policy Research and Data Needs to Meet the Challenge of Aging in Asia; Smith JP, Majmundar M, editors. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012.
  5. Health and Social Problems of the Elderly: A Cross-Sectional Study in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka A Lena, K Ashok, M Padma,1 V Kamath, and A Kamath. Indian J Community Med. 2009 Apr; 34(2): 131–134. doi:  10.4103/0970-0218.51236 PMCID: PMC2781120
  6. Demographics of Population Aging in India. Subaiya, Lekha and Dhananjay W Bansod. 2011. Demographics of Population Ageing in India: Trends and Citation Advice: Differentials, BKPAI Working Paper No. 1, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), New Delhi.


Atul Bengeri
Digital Health Influencer & Evangelizing Digital Transformation across verticals, Strategic Planning, Leadership, Program Management, Partnerships / Alliance Management


  1. yes, population health and wellness is future and medical informatics has big role

  2. yes, population health and wellness is future and medical informatics has big role