#WeCount documents people who are moving from invisible to visible - getting official records like birth or death certificates. They get these documents through systems that are being improved as part of the Data for Health Initiative, an ambitious effort make sure every human life counts. From urban mega-cities to remote villages, these vital records are improving the lives of individuals, and government's ability to serve them well.

Every year, 40% of births and more than 60% of deaths in low and middle-income countries go unregistered – and most of those deaths are not reliably assigned a cause. What does this mean? It means tens of millions of people may go without social benefits like being able to obtain an education, vote, or pass on possessions to their children.

And for public health, it means officials have to use “best guess” methods to figure out what the best way to invest in policies that create health and opportunity for all. The Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative is working to change that through strengthening Civil Registration and Vital Statistics (CRVS) in nineteen countries around the world. Improving CRVS will ensure that scarce resources and public health policies are well targeted and their impact tracked. Countries that can accurately count births and deaths – and determine the causes of those deaths – can use statistics to save and improve lives.

"My name is Daw Than Nwet and I live in Myinmu township in the Sagain region of Myanmar. My husband passed away last year. He worked as a civil servant for over 30 years and he was entitled to receive a pension. We do not have any children and both of us depended on that pension for our living. When he died, I had to apply his for pension as his wife.

I registered his death in Township Medical Office and requested the death certificate. The process took only one week and I did not need to pay anything for it. The death certificate was submitted to the pension department. They gave me this green card as an identity card to withdraw his pension every month. I will also need the certificate to claim his life insurance. So, my husband’s death certificate really benefited me. "

Our Stories

It Takes an “Electronic Village” - Improving CRVS in Malawi

Technology underpins many recent population health achievements. However, in many rural parts of the developing world, implementing technology-driven solutions to health problems can be a challenge. Leveraging technology, whenever possible, is a goal of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Data for Health Initiative (D4H), particularly in terms of strengthening civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).

In rural Malawi, a key population health goal lies in tabulating CRVS, or recording births and deaths. This is a priority for the Malawian Ministry of Health since the vast majority of births and deaths in the country go unregistered. Rural areas lack easy access to registration facilities – particularly as births and deaths mainly occur at home in remote villages..

Read the full post on our Vital Stories blog

About Data for Health

Civil registration and vital statistics systems, that is, the registration and enumeration of births and deaths and causes of death, give countries critical information to plan health programs. But simply having data is not enough. Governments also need – but often lack – the expertise to turn data into action and prevent needless deaths and suffering.

The Bloomberg Data for Health Initiative – funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the government of Australia – is focusing on supporting nineteen countries where improved health data systems will translate into saving lives and healthier people. These countries, in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, comprise almost a billion people. Moreover, the tools and methods developed there will provide a roadmap for other countries facing similar challenges.

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