May 30, 2024

WHO Launches Largest Global Collection of Health Inequality Data with Health Inequality Data Repository (HIDR)

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during the 151st session of the Executive Board on 30 May 2022. This second shorter meeting of the year is a follow-up to the World Health Assembly. The Executive Board is composed of 34 technically qualified members elected for three-year terms. The main functions of the Board are to implement the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, and advise and generally to facilitate its work.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released the largest global collection of health inequality data to date. The Health Inequality Data Repository (HIDR) provides publicly available disaggregated data and evidence on population health and its determinants. The repository includes 59 datasets from over 15 sources, with nearly 11 million data points and measurements of over 2000 indicators broken down by 22 dimensions of inequality, including demographic, socioeconomic, and geographical factors. Topics covered include COVID-19, maternal and child health, immunization, HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, nutrition, non-communicable diseases, and environmental health.

The HIDR data reveal significant progress in reducing the rich-poor gap in health service coverage among women, newborns, and children in low- and middle-income countries over the last decade. They also show that eliminating wealth-related inequality in under-five mortality could save the lives of 1.8 million children in these countries. The repository provides a one-stop-shop for data on health inequality, enabling the tracking of health inequalities across population groups and over time.

WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus emphasized the importance of directing services to those who need them the most, stating that “if we are truly committed to leaving no one behind, we must figure out who is being missed.” Disaggregated data are essential to this effort, yet they remain unavailable for many health indicators. Even where they are available, they are most frequently broken down only by sex and, to a lesser extent, by age and place of residence.

The HIDR also reveals inequality patterns in hypertension and obesity rates between high- and low-income countries. In high-income countries, hypertension is more common among men than women, while obesity rates are similar among men and women. In contrast, hypertension rates are similar among women and men in low-income countries, but obesity rates are higher among women than men.

The repository further exposes inequalities in national COVID-19 responses. In more than a third of the 90 countries with data, COVID-19 vaccination coverage among the most educated was at least 15 percentage points higher than among the least educated. Releasing the HIDR, WHO is calling on countries to adopt routine health inequality monitoring, make disaggregated data publicly available, expand data collection, and increase capacity for analysis and reporting. Inequality analyses should be conducted regularly at the global, national, and subnational levels, with health inequality monitoring integrated into global and national goals, indicators, and targets, and health performance assessments. WHO is committed to working with countries and partners to update and expand this resource annually.

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