It’s a new dawn for global health data borne of necessity, mind-numbing numbers, Netflix and a desire to avoid insanity.
“For our own sanity, we needed to create a new way to look at this stuff,” said Peter Speyer.
Speyer, head of data development at Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, explained why he and his colleagues are transforming a massive collection of health data known as the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) into a stunning collection of powerful online and interactive visual tools. Go to the link; below is just a screen grab. Seriously, go there and try these out. You’ll have fun even if you don’t know yet what you’re doing.
Today, Bill Gates and Speyer’s boss, IHME director Chris Murray, officially unveiled some of those tools aimed at allowing anyone (even you) to dig deeper into these global estimates arrived at by some 500 researchers working in collaboration worldwide for five years on more than 200 million results tracking the impact of nearly 300 causes of death and disability in 187 countries.
Phew. It makes your head hurt just to read that sentence. Imagine trying to compile a complete report including all of the numbers, statistics and charts.
“That’s one of the most exciting things about this phase of the project,” said Murray, who with his long-time partner in death-and-disability number crunching, Alan Lopez of the University of Queensland in Australia, has been trying for decades to create a reliable yardstick for measuring what’s going on in global health.
“I think these visual tools represent a significant paradigm change for global health,” Murray said. “They engage even the most data-resistant people. It’s an incredible revelation to me how profoundly influential it can be to present the data in this way. I think data visualization will be revolutionary for global health.”