Data can be used in many ways for a variety of purposes. It provides information that has been translated into a form that is efficient for movement and processing. Public health uses data because it gives healthcare providers clinical insights that are not otherwise available.
It allows them to demonstrate and evaluate the impact of an intervention, prescribe treatments and make clinical decisions with greater accuracy, monitor progress, and provide quality patient care.
In this article, you will learn the importance of data for public health, how data improves public health, areas that can be improved in public health and health equity, and how data provides access to vaccines.
What is public health and why is it important?
Public health protects and improves the health of people and their communities. It supports individuals, organizations, and society to help prevent diseases, mortality, and disability. Public health has three uses: prevention, protection, and promotion.
- Prevention helps reduce illness by supporting healthier lifestyle choices.
- Protection enables surveillance and monitors infectious disease, emergency response, and immunization.
- Promotion provides health education and commissioning services to meet specific health needs.
Public health is essential because it helps prevent problems from happening or recurring by implementing educational programs, recommending policies, administrating services, and conducting research.
Additionally, doctors and nurses focus on treating individuals after becoming sick or injured, meaning that public health helps limit health disparities.
Overall public health is concerned with protecting the health of an entire population, such as small communities, an entire country, or a world region.
How can data improve public health?
The use of data in public health is essential for public health research. It is useful when used, analyzed, and applied promptly.
There are many ways that data can improve public health, including evaluating program impact, determining the proper public health intervention, monitoring progress towards a goal, determining a population to target for intervention, determining barriers to care, and influencing public policy.
Let’s take a closer look at all these factors associated with improving public health.
Evaluating a Programs Impact
Data is essential when evaluating a program’s effect or impact associated with a study. Incorporating data in a program can demonstrate how an intervention successfully improved a specific procedure or investigation.
It can also determine what needs to be changed to improve the impact. Additionally, data can be used to demonstrate that an intervention is ineffective or does not have its intended result.
Appropriate Public Health Interventions
Data can be used to determine the appropriate steps for public health interventions, especially when selecting the most cost-effective and proper intervention for developing countries that would ultimately provide results comparable to more advanced technological screening methods.
Data helps monitor progress towards a goal or target. Public health organizations usually have set goals, especially concerning decreasing mortality rates, and are encouraged for public health efforts to continue focusing on this trend.
Data enables these organizations to have the information that is needed to reach these types of goals.
Targeting Population-Based Interventions
Data is crucial for determining which group of individuals have the highest surgical need.
Data has shown the lack of surgery in developing countries and reveals the need for surgical interventions to be more accessible to the poor in developing countries.
The data has also demonstrated that there is potential for improvements that could be realized if such inequity was addressed.
In addition, data can show where insecticide-treated malaria nets for children are most needed.
Data has shown improvements in insecticide-treated malaria nets coverage that have been documented; however, there are still specific countries and areas that have primarily demonstrated the need for coverage.
The data has indicated that coverage rates are lowest in areas with the highest risk of malaria transmission and improving targeting might be required to reduce disparity.
Barriers to Care and Reveal Patient Perceptions
Determining barriers to care and assessing patient perceptions have to happen in order to design interventions that will have the most significant impact. Data is used to determine barriers to care and reveal patient perceptions.
It can help health organizations in areas that need to be changed, whether it be fees for health care or access.
Influencing Public Policy
Data can be used to influence public policy and demonstrate a policy’s need or potential impact.
Additionally, data can be used to influence current policies related to some instances involving health care and illustrate the need and benefits of specific programs.
What can be done to help improve public health equity?
Improving the public health of the most vulnerable populations could boost the overall health outcomes and social well-being, strengthen the economy, and help build a solid equitable future.
Policies that were incorporated to enhance the nation’s health should ensure that all communities are healthy and thriving no matter where an individual lives.
So how can this be done? Long-term sustained interventions could help prevent disease, promote health, and prepare and respond to continuous and urgent threats to health.
Improving public health equity starts by addressing social determinants of health, including income, education, housing, employment, transportation, environmental conditions, and neighborhood conditions.
Policymakers can help improve health, reduce racial disparities, and contribute to economic mobility.
How can data help improve access to vaccines?
Improving access to vaccines is critical for helping improve the quality and safety of an individual’s life, which is why data is an integral part of helping improve access to vaccines to protect communities from disease.
Providing vaccines for underdeveloped countries can be challenging due to the limited resources and infrastructure; however, safe transportation and storage of vaccines are critical to vaccine equity.
The proper transportation, equipment, monitoring methods, and data collection significantly impact access to vaccines.
So how can data help enhance access to vaccines? Data can transform vaccine distribution programs.
Tools help analyze who is receiving vaccines and where it is being distributed. Mobile phones can register local vaccination rates data, enabling decision-makers to respond to worrying trends.
Global Dashboard for Vaccine Equity has combined COVID-19 vaccine rates and socio-economic data to show the impact of vaccine equity on poverty and economic recovery.
Having access to all this data information can help decision-makers react to issues while providing access to any individual.
Data will always be essential for improving public health. It can help access vaccines, show vaccine distribution in different regions or countries, provide information about health care access, and set policies for improving public health care for all individuals in need of assistance.
Written by: Emmanuel J. Osemota