Malta to host meeting on importance of data coverage for small countries

Small countries have a huge need for data, but most have difficulties in achieving effective health data coverage. To address this gap, on 3–4 March 2016, Malta will host a meeting on data collection in small countries.

Data collection challenges in small countries

In July 2015, during the second high-level meeting of the small countries initiative in Andorra, small countries shared their challenges in health information collection and reporting. The first challenge in small contexts concerns the lack of human resources in data collection, which results in a lack of coordination and difficulty in monitoring health indicators on a regular basis. It is a severe problem, because regular monitoring is a fundamental epidemiological tool to control risk situations.

A second challenge, which Monaco shared, is the difficulties a country faces when receiving numerous (uncoordinated) data requests from multiple organizations, and Monaco stressed the need to resolve this issue of lack of coordination. Andorra stated that while it wants to respond to external data requests, sometimes it cannot.

A third challenge is that small regions are often assimilated into larger ones, but actually the similarity is rare: each region and small country is unique with its specific environment, culture and health needs. The absence of data can lead to misunderstandings, hindering new policies, which affect health services and, consequently, the health status of citizens.

WHO support of health data coverage

WHO supports the improvement of health data coverage in small contexts, for example through the European Health Information Initiative, with capacity building and networking as key to strong health information systems.

WHO also promotes Health 2020 and one of its main objectives is to achieve universal health coverage in each country or region, answering the specific requests that emerged from each specific context. However, to improve regional health systems, precise data reporting using relevant indicators is needed.

Small countries' commitment to improved data collection

Small countries highlighted the importance of data collection to align their national policies to Health 2020 and confirmed their commitment to improve in this area. During the meeting in Andorra, Member States stated that a strengthening collaboration for health information will begin with the aim to report back on the progress and outcomes at the Third Level Meeting in Monaco.