An international team of experts at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Public Health say that sharing Public Health data needs global coordination and recommends a data sharing treaty that will be monitored by a commission appointed to facilitate global data sharing.

The experts published a study in the BioMedical Central journal (BMC) that was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the National Institute of Health (NIH). The study, entitled A systematic review of barriers to data sharing in public health, categorises and analyses the barriers to sharing public health data that prohibits national and global decision-making and restrains efforts to control emerging global health threats.

Among the team were experts in epidemiology, law and ethics who isolated 20 perceived barriers from 65 articles from scientific publications about Public Health data sharing. The six main categories were economic, legal, technical, political, motivational and ethical. The study uncovered larger issues such as health information system (HIS) capacity prevalent in low and middle-income countries. International cooperation and the shared infrastructure and development of data across agencies and institutes have been identified as solutions to the barriers.

“Identifying and classifying these barriers was the first step toward harnessing the potential of data for a new era in population health,” said lead author, M.D and assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health, Willem van Panhuis. “As our knowledge of these barriers increases, so will the opportunities for solutions.”

This study follows the recent gathering of public and private representatives at the eStrategies Summit in Cape Town to discuss, among other topics, the challenges of national data share and how best to share SA’s health data.

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