4 in 10 of the world's deaths are unregistered and in the African region, only 1 in 10 deaths is currently recorded, according to the first ever global assessment of country health information systems released Monday by the World Health Organization in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies.
Two-thirds of low-income countries have established a standardized system to report causes of deaths. However, the SCORE Report highlights the urgent need to strengthen these systems to help the world respond to health emergencies and track progress towards global health goals.
The pandemic has highlighted that even the most advanced health and data systems still struggle to provide data in near real-time in order to act swiftly.
The lack of data worldwide limits the understanding of the true mortality impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, undermining response planning.
"The pandemic has stretched the capacity of country health information systems around the world, as they must track both the disease and other critical health trends," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
"The SCORE report is an important step towards better data, for better decisions and better health," he added.
Estimates show that 60% of the countries reviewed have a well-developed system for reviewing progress and performance of their health sector and only half have the capacity to monitor quality of care.
Only 32% of the countries have good capacity for a national digital health strategy based on recommended standards.
"With SCORE at hand, WHO will support countries around the world to address data gaps and strengthen their data and health information systems," said Dr Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General, for Data, Analytics and Delivery.
Although, there is good availability of data on areas such as immunization, tuberculosis and HIV incidence, there is less coverage on health issues such as mental health and cancer.
Less than half of countries report national facility data on severe mental health disorders.
This lack of data severely limits countries in their ability to plan and implement effective health programmes.
"The SCORE report guides countries to invest in priority areas with the greatest impact on the collection, analysis and use of health data,," said Michael Bloomberg, WHO Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries.
He added that among other recommendations the report urges countries to strengthen their overall health data systems, to improve their death data registration systems and to collect more and better quality data to address inequalities,
The report and the portal are part of WHO's SCORE for Health Data Technical Package that will support countries and regions to view their assessments, conduct analyses, and improve health data for healthier populations.