19 Jul 2017

Pacific medical data project gets philanthropic funding boost

12:22 pm on 19 July 2017

A project to reduce preventable deaths in the Pacific by improving medical data has received a significant funding boost from a US philanthropist.

Papua New Guinea (July 7, 2015) Hospitalman Jaime Cavalleroserna, from San Francisco, takes patient vitals during a community health engagement. Medical personnel from the hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) arrived in Kokopo  during Pacific Partnership 2015.

Jaime Cavalleroserna, from San Francisco, takes patient vitals in Kokopo, Papua New Guiena during a community health engagement. Photo: US Navy/Mayra A. Conde

$US8.7 million has been donated by Bloomberg Philanthropies, taking its total contribution to the Data for Health project to $US18.8 million.

The project is jointly financed by the Australian government and is hosted by the University of Melbourne.

Since 2015, it has been working with governments from 20 low and middle-income countries worldwide.

This year in Solomon Islands, it released the first ever cause of death statistics, showing heart disease and strokes were the country's leading killers.

In Papua New Guinea, the project is integrating existing databases to create a baseline dataset to inform public health officials.

The project's team leader Alan Lopez said work in Solomon Islands included training doctors to determine causes of death and developing electronic systems to register them.

Professor Lopez said the "data showed for the first time ever that it wasn't measles, or malaria, or TB that was killing people in Solomon Islands it was heart disease and strokes.

"And the country was extremely surprised by that and are using these data to change health policy and practices. It will take time these things are not changed overnight but at least now there's the culture of using evidence to inform policy."