Lots of data gets collected all the time by governments and NGOs, usually with the idea that it will be useful to tell us something when we look at it later. However, getting from tick boxes on a medical form to a useful summary of population health is a long and tricky journey. Making sense of with large amounts of data is really hard, but is also really important so we can see how things are going and make some strategic choices for how we would like things to go in the future.
British Columbia has a great big database of how people use healthcare, and research on this data can help the province develop better policies. Check out the Centre for Health Services and Policy Research (CHSPR) if you would like to read more.
It is that much harder to collect and summarize data on a global scale, but there is a cool research project here in Sweden that aims to do it. The World Bank has opened an ‘Apps for Development’ competition to encourage research about global development and health/economic issues, and they are inviting votes from the public to see which applications should be funded. Full disclosure: a friend of mine has submitted an application to harness the World Bank data that already exists. A video about that application is below, and you can vote for it here. This competition seems like a great initiative so check it out… even if you don’t vote for this one!