Roadblocks To Public Health Data Sharing

Staff Writer | Government Health IT | December 8, 2014

The sharing of public health data, so essential to health care decision-making in the information age, is being held back by multiple barriers, according to a new study published in the journal BMC Public Health.  The study was conducted by researchers from several organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, and the University Health Network and the University of Toronto, and found that public data sharing is hindered by technical, motivational, economic, political, legal and ethical barriers.

“Great opportunities have been created for global health cooperation, scientific discovery, and effective disease control programs by recent advances in public health data collection,” the report said. “These advancements are contrasted by real and potential barriers that limit the efficient use of these data. A global process will be essential for a more effective use of known solutions and to build consensus for new solutions to harness the potential of data towards a 21st century population health.”

In the technology arena, major obstacles to public health sharing included the failure to adequately collect data. The World Health Organization Health Metrics Network, the CDC/USAID Data for Decision Making project and other agencies have identified significant gaps in public health data systems, in particular in low- and middle-income countries, the report said. “Disease surveillance systems in many countries cannot meet standards set by the 2005 International Health Regulations. Civil registration systems in many countries are lacking as well.”...