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Vital Stories

Spotlight: Data For Action

Everything we do at Vital Strategies is grounded in data. Public health intelligence is one of the three pillars of our work, along with institutional strengthening, and strategic communication and advocacy. Improved surveillance, health impact assessments and data use allow governments to allocate resources and design policies and programs that will have the most impact on people’s health. Whether we’re managing large multi-site clinical trials, conducting operational research or evaluating our programs’ impact, Vital Strategies strives to ensure that evidence underpins our efforts, and that we generate data to build an evidence base for future efforts. 

Runa Akter, Gazipur District, Bangladesh, only learned she lacked a birth registration on the day of her marriage. (Pictured with Dr. Jahangir Alam, Data for Health Country Coordinator)

Collecting data is not enough: We support governments that are ready to turn high-quality data into action. Our Data Impact team collaborates with governments to expand the use of data to enhance public health policymaking: prioritizing health issues and identifying populations in need; allocating financial and human resources; enacting laws and regulations; and establishing programs and services. The Data to Policy program trains local public health experts to leverage existing data for the development of policy briefs with high-yield and cost-effective policy recommendations.

We’ve curated some data-related news and links from work across our programs:

What To Watch 

Major Milestone for Prevent Epidemics

Prevent Epidemics at Resolve to Save Lives recently produced this short video to celebrate the 100thcountry to complete a Joint External Evaluation (JEE), the gold standard for determining how ready a country is to find, stop and prevent an epidemic. The data provided by the JEE will help policymakers and civil society close significant gaps in preparedness and help secure the safety of their populations. 

Mass Media Campaign Aims at Reducing Road Deaths in Mumbai 

Our evidence-driven mass media campaigns promote behavior that can reduce injury and mortality caused by accidents and NCDs. This video, Consequences, was launched in conjunction with the 2017 Mumbai Road Safety Report (produced in partnership with BIGRS), a study which identified risk factors such as crash hot spots and drink driving and speeding enforcement issues. The report also found that poor helmet use contributed to at least 38 percent of road injuries and deaths. Watch Consequences, a wake-up call for helmet compliance. Read more on our Vital Stories blog.

Global Policy 

Our research and data collection influences global policy on an array of global public health challenges. 

Air Quality Alert

Read the 2019 report “Hazy Perceptions” which analyzed thousands of pieces of news media and social media posts to uncover misconceptions about the health risks of air pollution in South and South East Asia and offer recommendations on how to mitigate the long-term health threats. 

Taking Aim at Alcohol

We are currently working with the WHO-led SAFER initiative to reduce global alcohol use by 10 percent by 2025. Learn more about SAFER. Read our 2018 report “Trouble Brewing” outlining an action plan to combat alcohol’s social, health and economic harms. Our September 6 Vital Talk addresses Alcohol and Development

Urban Health 

Our Road Safety program uses surveillance and data to develop targeted campaigns and initiatives and effectively coordinate with governments and civil society in the 10 cities where we currently operate. Learn more about the process in this Case Study, Road Safety: Our Work in Action.

Expert Focus 

Read how CRVS benefits women and girls in this recent Q&A with Joan Sara Thomas, senior program officer, Data for Health Initiative. To Better the Lives of Women and Girls, Improve CRVS Systems

From The Field 

From the Counting the Uncounted blog, an explainer on how our work helps strengthen the laws that underpin well-functioning CRVS systems: Outdated Legal Frameworks Leave Millions Without a Legal Identity. Here’s How Four Countries Took Action.

Explore the related training here: 

Legal and Regulatory Review Toolkit

Research And Resources 

Vital Strategies advocates data-driven action and has developed a number of trainings, courses and a new website to empower others to employ this approach. Our recently launched website serves as a hub of information about the Data Impact Program. 

Selected resources: 

Communicating with Data Guide

Data to Policy Course

E-Learning Teaches Physicians to Certify Cause of Mortality. Why it Matters

Explore more key research recommended by our team: 

Integrating community-based verbal autopsy into civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS): system-level considerations

AbouZahr C, Adjei S, Kanchanachitra C. From data to policy: good practices and cautionary tales. Lancet. 2007 Mar 24;369(9566):1039–46. 

Barriers to use of health data in low- and middle-income countries — a review of the literature [Internet]. Evaluate. 2018 [cited 2019 Aug 22]. Available from:

Chan M, Kazatchkine M, Lob-Levyt J, Obaid T, Schweizer J, Sidibe M, et al. Meeting the demand for results and accountability: a call for action on health data from eight global health agencies. PLOS Medicine. 2010 Jan 26;7(1):e1000223.

Karpati A, Ellis J. Measure, inform, build: enabling data-driven government policymaking. In: Macfarlane SB, AbouZahr C, editors. The Palgrave Handbook of Global Health Data Methods for Policy and Practice [Internet]. London: Palgrave Macmillan UK; 2019 [cited 2019 Aug 22]. p. 85–102. Available from:

Martelli E, Castiglioni M, Dalla-Zuanna G, Emberti Gialloreti L, Guiebre C, Medah Dabiret H, et al. Controlled impact evaluation of a birth registration intervention, Burkina Faso. Bull World Health Organ [Internet]. 2019 Apr 1 [cited 2019 May 7];97(4):259–69.

Nannan, Nadine, Robert Dorrington, and Debbie Bradshaw. Estimating Completeness of Birth Registration in South Africa, 1996 – 2011.Bulletin of the World Health Organization 97, no. 7 (July 1, 2019): 468–76.