Many developing countries lack reliable information about the health status of their people. While it might be apparent that significant numbers of people are becoming sick or dying, often there is little data on the major causes of disease. A lack of data impedes efforts to accurately target resources and control disease.
The two major challenges to collecting better information on health problems are:
- Inadequate or expensive diagnostic tests that can identify the causes of illness.
- Inadequate or incomplete medical records, such as death certificates.
New advances across a number of scientific disciplines could greatly improve developing countries' ability to track health status and disease trends. One such advance is using innovative statistical methods to accurately estimate an entire population's health status from limited information. Another is using new "miniaturizing" technology to reconfigure sophisticated diagnostic tests so they can be easily used in resource-poor settings.