By Sue-Lynn Moses
Back in 2015, when Bloomberg Philanthropies teamed up with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to launch a $100 million Data for Health initiative, we learned something surprising: According to the World Health Organization, around two-thirds of all deaths around the world go unrecorded—that’s around 35 million people. Also, of the over 30 percent of deaths that are recorded by a death certificate, 75 percent of those fail to name a specific cause of death.
Public health officials don't know exactly why most of the world's people die. In turn, that data shortcoming makes it hard to properly target public health resources to prevent premature deaths and raise life expectancies. It's natural that Mike Bloomberg, whose long seen better data as the key to problem solving, would want to get a handle on things.
A lack of hard information on why people die isn't the only glaring hole in global data. There are a lot of others, too, which is why we weren't so surprised to see that the Gates Foundation has awarded the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) a 10-year, $279 million grant to expand its work tracking how global health dollars are being spent and spearhead new ways to inform policymakers about global health priorities. (A portion of the funds will also fund core support to IHME students, faculty, and staff.)
The $279 million give marks the largest private donation in the University of Washington’s history and brings Gates’ total grantmaking to the university to $1.25 billion.