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World Health Day 2024: championing accessible health data

05 April 2024

Wastewater surveillance

On 7 April, the world comes together to celebrate World Health Day, dedicated to raising awareness about global health issues and advocating for universal health coverage. This year, the theme ‘My Health, My Right’ emphasizes the fundamental right of every individual to attain the highest possible standard of health. As we reflect on this theme, it’s important to recognise the pivotal role access to data plays in empowering each of us to claim our right to health, and make informed decisions about our well-being.

Access to health data is not just about publishing spreadsheets of raw information. It's not even about numbers and lines on graphs. This sort of information can easily become overwhelming. To fulfil its potential, health data needs to be presented in a manner that empowers people to interpret and act on it. This means transforming complex data sets into digestible formats such as interactive visualisations, easy-to-read charts, and plain language summaries.

When health data is presented in a way that is understandable to the public, it becomes a valuable tool for proactive health management, and fostering a deeper understanding of our own well-being.

One example of how accessible data is revolutionising the way we approach public health is through the wastewater surveillance for COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of early detection and monitoring of infectious diseases. And wastewater testing has emerged as a powerful tool in the fight against the spread of the virus.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR ) wastewater surveillance programme involves testing samples of sewage water for traces of the virus's genetic material. As individuals infected with COVID-19 shed the virus in their faeces, this method provides a way to detect the presence of the virus in communities even before individuals show symptoms. By analysing wastewater data, public health officials can identify potential outbreaks, track trends, and implement targeted interventions to prevent the spread of the virus. And the pubic can make better decisions about their health.

One of the key advantages of wastewater surveillance for COVID-19 and other viruses is its ability to provide a broader picture of community health. Unlike individual testing, which may miss asymptomatic cases, wastewater surveillance captures data from entire populations to provide a fuller picture.

But the data provided by wastewater surveillance is only useful when presented in a way to health workers and the public that makes sense. That’s where ESR’s data scientists come in. In the video below, statistician Bridget Armstrong explains the ESR COVID-19 Wastewater Dashboard.

By embracing accessible health information, we not only improve our own health outcomes but also contribute to a collective effort to better the wellbeing of our communities. Because health data is not just a set of numbers; it's a powerful resource that enables us to live healthier, happier lives.

ESR Dashboards

The ESR dashboards display data which users can visualise in graphs, figures and maps. ESR's public health surveillance dashboards are frequently updated with the latest information on these focus topics to provide timely information at a glance. More detailed analyses can be found in our published reports. Discover our dashboards.