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Newest Techniques in Data Science Offer Governments Life-Saving Insights

(New York, NY) – Using promising new techniques in data science, statisticians and public health experts from Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia gathered for a four-day workshop to estimate health indicators that can offer life-saving insights for policymakers in areas where need is greatest. As part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative, the workshop was held March 6-9, 2018, in Quito, Ecuador, and organized by Vital Strategies, in partnership with the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC) of Ecuador.

From left to right: Roberto Castillo, General Subdirector (INEC); Cynthia Driver, Senior Technical Advisor Vital Strategies; Lorena Moreno, Director of the Department of Metrics and Methodologies Innovation (INEC); Fausto Jácome, Data for Health Initiative Ecuador’s Coordinator

Surveys of the population are costly. For this reason, survey sample sizes are generally too small to provide reliable information for small geographic areas. But thanks to the application of  innovative techniques like small area estimation, statisticians can now estimate health indicators for smaller areas, leading to better policy decisions and interventions at the local-level.

“Small area estimation is critical for producing statistically sound information and for public health program planning and policymaking,” said Cynthia Driver, Senior Technical Advisor for the Data Impact program at Vital Strategies. “This technique allows statisticians and public health analysts to use information that’s already available to estimate information for small geographic areas. In doing so, we’re providing data at the level that decisions are required, which can ultimately help governments develop policies that will help save lives.”

“Disaggregated quality information translates into good decisions”, said Lorena Moreno, Director of the Metrics and Methodologies Innovation Department at the National Statistics Office of Ecuador. “Small area estimation methodologies have become popular in the last few years due to their applicability to estimate data at levels that surveys do not usually allow. However, these methodologies are not yet widely used for official statistics that intend to guide public policy. Because of this, specialized training in this area is very much valuable and useful. For us, this workshop is an opportunity to learn how to apply these methods to provide new information for small geographical areas in Ecuador, mainly related to health indicators”.

During the four-day workshop, the 16 participants produced small area estimates with data from their own countries, as first exercises to be later polished. Examples included estimates of migration experience for municipalities in Colombia, and indications of chronic stunting in children for cities (cantons) in Ecuador. Estimates of health status indicators highlight differences among districts and municipalities, and the results can be used by public health decision-makers to take action and implement important public health interventions.

Learn more about our work in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative by visiting

About Vital Strategies

Vital Strategies is a global health organization that believes every person should be protected by a strong public health system. Our team combines evidence-based strategies with innovation to help develop and implement sound public health policies, manage programs efficiently, strengthen data systems, conduct research, and design strategic communication campaigns for policy and behavior change. To find out more, please visit or Twitter @VitalStrat.

For further information or to arrange an interview with a Vital Strategies public health expert, please contact

About the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses of Ecuador (INEC)

The aim of INEC is to coordinate and evaluate the official national statistical production through the planning and execution of statistical operations and the analysis of the results through the development of specialized research. INEC’s vision is to become a national and international leader focused in the production of quality and timely information and in the generation of knowledge through its analysis.

For further information, please contact: