The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) is one of the world’s richest data sources on what kills and sickens people in almost every country on earth.
You can now mine that data anyplace on the planet.
Meet Health Atlas, a new smartphone app from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME). It serves up GBD findings for non-commercial use. Curious about how a country’s health trends compare with its neighbor? Want to identify leading causes of illness by age, gender or geography? Health Atlas lets users easily find global health data – no internet connection required.
The aim is to help NGOs, relief organizations, governments and others identify health challenges and take steps to address them, said Bill Heisel, director of global engagement at IHME.
“With Health Atlas we want to further democratize this data,” Heisel said. “We want to get people out there pushing for changes that will improve health and create longer lives.”
The app was built to arm the groups and individuals pushing for those changes, said Alex Kelly, CEO of Make, LLC, an app development company that designed and built the app. “Before conversations happen in boardrooms and government capitals, you have to prepare your data,” he said. “We wanted to take all this incredibly rich data and make it more actionable for policymakers in a simple tool they have in their pocket.”
Some sleight-of-hand programming allows the app to make all that data available offline, said Tyrone Grandison, IHME’s chief information officer. When you do have a connection, the app makes it easy to share insights over social media or just about any other platform. Recently, Heisel tweeted from the app a comparison between Albania and Bulgaria. He soon got a message from a user in Bulgaria, upset that her country was lagging behind its neighbor.
“That’s the exact reaction we want,” he said. “We want the people of Bulgaria to question why they can’t enjoy the same long, healthy lifespans enjoyed elsewhere. To paraphrase Russell Wilson, ‘Why not us?’”
Heisel encourages all UW Medicine employees to download the app, dive into the data and offer feedback. Researchers can find data to plug into their next grant application. Specialists can explore the drivers of disease in their topic. And clinicians could use the app to help explain some of the main drivers of poor health.
Or you can just enjoy billions of data points distilled down to engaging and useful snapshots for 195 countries of the world. “Health Atlas will provide you hours of inspiration, and probably hours more of barroom trivia,” Heisel said.