Pressing need to strengthen Pacific health information
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community says there is a pressing need to strengthen health information in the region, in order to assess each country's priorities and design better policies.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Community says there is a pressing need to strengthen health information in the region, to assess each countries priorities and inform better policies.
The acting public health division director, Yvan Souares, says the SPC used the World Health Organisation's Global Burden of Disease studies to see how Pacific health data was being interpreted.
Dr Souares says they found information had to be used with caution, as it lumped 23 countries of the region together.
He told Mary Baines improvements need to be made in relation to data analysis, use and sharing.
YVAN SOUARES: Lower respiratory infections, diabetes, and diarrhoea cause the greatest overall burden and mortality, and depression, low back pain and anaemia, are responsible for the greatest burden in terms of disability within the population. These have slightly changed since the 1990 initial study, and definitely non-communicable diseases are picking up according to the study. However, the paper that we just published, indicates the interpretation of this data should be exercised with a lot of caution since the way of calculating the burden of diseases is a bit peculiar and has some limitations.
MARY BAINES: SPC is stressing the need to strengthen health information systems in the Pacific, in relation to data analysis, use and sharing, why is this needed?
YS: These studies are actually assessing the burden of disease according to regions, not to individual countries. There are 21 regions in the world that have been defined for that study, and Oceania is one of the 21 regions. So all Pacific Islands, plus Norfolk Island, are lumped together to form that region and estimates on the burden of disease are actually applying to this group of 23 islands. Therefore there are two main limitations to be understood. One, because a lot of data might be available in the Pacific but hasn't been properly analysed and disseminated. The estimates or hypotheses of the model are of course not really well informed. The second is when you lump together the 22 Pacific Island countries under the SPC plus the Norfolk Island there's no doubt that PNG has a much greater weight among that group because of its larger population. However, the data in Papua New Guinea are not necessarily of a much better quality than other islands, hence the models assume that most of the data that is available coming from PNG because of the numbers, then the profile, demography profile and health profile of PNG influences the results and the findings for the whole Oceania region.
MB: How do you fix that? Do you implement better systems in-country that can then be shared across the region?
YS: Our efforts are now to build capacity in-country and at the regional level for core functions around risk assessments, data analysis, data usage, data dissemination and all the core public health functions having to do with population research and findings, digging out data. Interpreting them, so that more quality data would be available for global burden of disease studies, the further ones, to be based on more accurate and more reliable data.
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