Introduction and Background
"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity" (WHO, 1948)
Health statistics are necessary inputs to planning and strategic decision making, programme implementation, monitoring progress towards targets. The availability of statistics is crucial in and is a necessary starting point to quantify outcomes needed to monitor and measure progress towards national development goals including those contained in the Millennium Declaration. The lack of reliable and good-quality statistics is a major obstacle to assessment of changes in development indicators in many developing countries. The absence of statistics in many developing countries is both a symptom and a cause of underdevelopment. Improvement of statistical systems is crucial in developing countries for three main reasons, namely; (a) assessment of the development problems and its magnitude, (b) scaling up of interventions, and (c) assessment of the effectiveness of various programmes.
The most common health statistics reported are vital events (birth, death, marriage, divorce rates), morbidity (incidence of disease in a population and health conditions); mortality (the number of people who die of a certain disease compared with the total number of people) and disability.
Other common statistical data reported are health care costs, factors influencing health, prevention and detection of disease; injuries; health services performance and utilization; and measures of health.
The Statistical Commission, at its 35th session (2-5 March 2004), established an Intersecretariat Working Group on Health Statistics to develop a coordinated and integrated agenda for the production of health statistics and agree on standard definitions, classifications, and methodologies in health statistics, taking advantage of existing mechanisms wherever .possible, and involving the community of official statistics at all stages, especially country experts".
This Health Statistics Virtual Library attempts to share knowledge and best practices by providing useful links to the relevant standards and methods, reports, meetings and workshops in this area.