Bloomberg Philanthropies has announced partnerships with 18 countries – five of which are from Africa, which will receive technical assistance and catalytic funding for new tools and systems to help the nations gather accurate data about the health of their citizens.

Bloomberg Philanthropies launched the $100 million Data for Health initiative just over a year ago in partnership with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. The initiative aims to improve health data in low- and middle-income countries.

Bloomberg Philanthropies and the government of Australia are working together in collaboration with public health experts including the CDC Foundation; US Centers for Disease Control and PreventionJohns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Vital StrategiesUniversity of Melbourne; the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa; the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific; and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The first 18 partner countries cover a population of nearly one billion people, and include Ghana, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia. The remaining countries span Southeast Asia and Latin America, a full list of countries involved can be found here.

In each country, the Data for Health initiative is guided by government priorities, and focused on finding innovative ways to help countries improve how data is collected and used. Once a country partnership is formed and priority areas have been collectively identified, two Data for Health-funded experts with experience in health data collection and analytics are provided to the government to support the work.

Specific areas of focus include improving death certification to understand cause of death, training to analyse data for health policy decisions, and using mobile phones for national health surveys.

Data for Health shares global best practices by connecting country staff with global networks.

“Improving the availability and accuracy of global health data is one of the greatest opportunities we have to help people live longer, healthier lives. The more we know about causes of death and illness, the better we can target resources and measure progress,” said Michael R. Bloomberg.

Over the past year, in response to the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil the Data for Health partnership has created an integrated database that links information on birth, congenital malformations, lab reports, mosquito infestations and treatments. The government of Brazil has been using these data analytics in its response to the outbreak, and has made the data available to the public in order to expedite solutions to this growing threat.

Another example is that in Rwanda, for the first time in its history, through the Data for Health partnership the Rwandan Ministry of Health will systematically collect information on deaths outside of the hospital setting. This is a critical step toward understanding leading causes of death in Rwanda, where an estimated 95% of all deaths occur outside of hospitals.

“By coordinating global efforts, working with committed countries, and highlighting innovative practices that can be replicated around the world, Data for Health can benefit billions of people,” concluded Bloomberg.

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