GHDx: a useful new tool, with some caveats

GHDx launched by IHME

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has launched a new database focused on global health data, called the Global Health Data Exchange (GHDx). As IHME describes the resource:

“The GHDx is our user-friendly and searchable data catalogue for global health, public health and demographic datasets.  It provides detailed information about datasets, direct access to all of IHME’s research results, and other datasets that we have the rights to share. We invite you to share your data with a wider audience.”

I am 110% behind the goal of developing and maintaining a central data repository, particularly in making IHME datasets publicly available where possible and providing the opportunity for researchers to share datasets (though allowing anyone to submit a dataset for inclusion raises quality control questions in my mind). As you can see from the list of existing databases with different global health and population data on my Resources page, it’s not uncommon to look across numerous databases when seeking out information for a report or a study, rather than being able to look in a central place.

After navigating the site for a while, I think the GHDx will be far more functional for researchers looking for datasets to download and analyze, rather than those looking for an output of data over time for a specific indicator by country. Looking up Ethiopia, for example, you find a list of all records of existing datasets, and links to where they can be downloaded; if you look for a specific health indicator (modern contraceptive prevalence rate, skilled birth attendance, etc.), you won’t find a list of data points by country to be downloaded as an Excel of CSV file. You can export your list of available datasets/surveys in those two file formats though. Based my limited experiments in looking for information in the GHDx, the World Bank Data page and Statcompiler will continue to be my two go-to sources for data by indicator.

When I commented on not finding survey data by indicator on Twitter, IHME responded to check for IHME’s research results for data by indicator: that said, I still haven’t figured out how to do that quickly and easily. That doesn’t mean the information isn’t there; I simply didn’t find the tool as user-friend as I’d hoped (and they claimed).

IHME will be doing their public launch of the data catalog at the exciting Global Health Metrics and Evaluation conference next week in Seattle, WA, which I’ve been looking forward to for a while. My hope is that they clarify some of the finer points of what this database can be used for, what’s available, and how it fills existing gaps, as it has the potential to be a powerful resource for those researching and working in global health.

UPDATE: In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Peter Speyer, director of data development at IHME, noted that there may be other functional tools added in the future, but currently the database only includes those datasets that can be downloaded into spreadsheets. You can read the whole article here.

2 thoughts on “GHDx: a useful new tool, with some caveats

  1. Hi Amanda,

    Thank you very much for your interest in the GHDx and your review of its functionality. The GHDx is specifically designed as a catalog of health-related data that allows you to research datasets. As you mention, there are several user-friendly indicator databases. We are building a new resource that provides information about health-related data, a catalog where you can start your data search and find out whether data exist, where to find them, who contributed to them, and how to cite them. For datasets where we can share the data (e.g. all IHME results and other data that are in the public domain), we are providing those for download.

    Consequently, searching for datasets by keyword in the GHDx will provide a list of datasets with that type of information, not indicators to view or visualize. I am glad that you found that functionality useful.

    For users interested in comparable indicators, you list very useful tools in your ‘resources’ section. In addition, many IHME research results provide indicators that are comparable across time and countries. You can find and download those from the GHDx, or you can explore them via Tools > Data Visualizations on the IHME website.

    Thanks again for your feedback, it is very helpful for us to understand how you are using the GHDx. We’ll make sure to make the distinction between a data catalog and an indicator database more evident. Please come find me at GHME, and we can continue the conversation.

    Director of Data Development

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