Global health data (FS-05)

Focused symposium (FS)
Monday 3 July 2017, 16:00-17:30
Auditorium 2

Duttine A1,2, Sykes C3,4, Jelsma J5, Vos T6
1University of London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, United Kingdom, 2Handicap International US, Silver Spring, United States, 3World Confederation for Physical Therapy, London, United Kingdom, 4University of Sydney, Faculty of Health Sciences, Sydney, Australia, 5University of Cape Town, Department of Health and Rehabilitation, Cape Town, South Africa, 6University of Washington, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle, United States

Learning objectives

  1. Participants will know about a range of global health information sources, where to access them and understand their uses and limitations.
  2. Participants will be able to identify which sources can provide the most useful data to address questions facing physiotherapists.
  3. Participants will be able to review their own practice and reflect on possible uses of global health information to enhance practice or advocate for physiotherapy.


Margaret Chan, Director General of the WHO maintains that “what gets measured gets done” [1]. We are living in a data driven world with advances in technology bringing capacity to collect increasing amounts of data.

However, it is easy to get lost in the forest of information and not see the trees that are the promise of new information and change [2]. This is as true for health as it is for other sectors of global development and can leave physiotherapists with challenges in knowing how to use what is available.

The purpose of this focused symposium is to EXPLORE global health data sources; to INSPIRE participants to use global health statistical sources by INCLUDING stories informed by national, regional and global data; to CONNECT this data to disability and rehabilitation focused resources; and to understand how data used well can IMPACT on policy, resource allocation, service delivery, professional education and ultimately health outcomes.

The Global Burden of Disease reports have become the standard for measuring changes in global health. Both the 2010 and 2013 reports highlighted the demographic shift in health that is being seen across the globe - as more people are surviving, more people are living longer but with ill health and disability [3].

This should produce a clear message that investment in rehabilitation is vital; however the message can often get lost in translation and miss out to competing priorities [4]. As physiotherapists, having an understanding of global health patterns is essential. However it is also important to enhance this data and widen the picture from solely the prevalence of health conditions towards their impact on individuals and communities. Data based on the International Classification of Functioning and Health [5] demonstrate how people are living with their health conditions and are useful in quantifying the scope and prevalence of functional limitations. By combining the degree of perceived functional limitation with the time spent in that condition, Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) can be developed. These can then be used as a basis for comparing the cost and impact of different rehabilitation interventions, thus guiding resources into the most effective use.

Physiotherapy services compete for limited resources which may limit the impact for patients/clients. Advocacy is an important skill for the modern physiotherapist. Clear argument, supported by credible evidence is necessary for advocacy [6], so global health data is vital in both being able to make the case for services, and also for demonstrating effectiveness [7]. Combining the right blend of global health and rehabilitation data may be the key to unlocking access to rehabilitation for all.

Implications / Conclusions

Health information systems include data that can be used by physiotherapists to inform practice. Data have the capacity to influence health policy and policy implementation; without evidence advocacy efforts are limited. This symposium will equip delegates with a good understanding of the sources and uses of global health information enabling the potential to move physiotherapy forward.


  1. Global burden of disease
  2. Statistics/data
  3. Advocacy

Funding acknowledgements

Not applicable

Relevance to physical therapy globally

Data on the health and functioning of populations is essential for monitoring health, planning health services, commissioning the education of health professionals and accrediting curricula to meet the needs of the populations served. There are numerous sources of global data which can be used, together with locally sourced data, to inform these activities. Global data sources can inform advocacy for rehabilitation, including physical therapy.

Target audience

All physical therapists who create, manage, produce or use data on health and functioning; including physiotherapist educators, managers of services, practising physiotherapists and advocates.


Programme subject to change