World Health Organisation
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is the United Nations specialised agency for health, established in 1948. The WHO’s objective is the attainment by all peoples of the highest possible level of health. The organisation is governed by 194 member states through the World Health Assembly.
The WHO compiles and disseminates statistics on a wide range of health-related topics, made available to researchers and others in several databases and printed publications. Priority is given to information on mortality, morbidity, health status, service coverage and risk factors. The databases, including documentation, can be accessed through the WHO Data and Statistics website. The MacroDataGuide examines two databases, namely the Global Health Observatory (GHO) and regional office data from the European Health for All Database (HFA-DB).
Global Health Observatory
WebsiteWorld Health Organisation
On-screen tables, CSV
Data types and sources
Data based on official registers and surveys, collected from the member states. In cases where countries lack complete or reliable data, WHO estimates the data through modelling (based on data from other populations), available surveys and census sources.
The WHO Statistical Information System (WHOSIS) has been upgraded and incorporated into the latest version of the Global Health Observatory, to provide more data, more tools, more analysis and more reports.
The Global Health Observatory database is the World Health Organization's main health statistics repository. It provides data and analyses for key health themes, as well as direct access to the full database. The GHO presents data from all WHO programmes and provides links to supporting information.
Data can be accessed by way of a quick search or by the browsing through the following topical categories: Environmental health, Epidemic prone diseases, Equity, Global Information System on Alcohol and Health, Health-related Millennium Development Goals, Health systems, HIV/AIDS, Immunization, Injuries and violence, Mortality and burden of disease, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Noncommunicable diseases, Nutrition, Tobacco Control, and Tuberculosis.
The database covers all the 194 WHO member countries.
Time coverage and updates
Some countries and indicators are covered from the late 1970s onwards, but data are very sparse prior to the mid-1990s.
Definitions and metadata for the database are provided online, and can be found in the GHO Metadata section.
Access conditions and cost
Available free of charge.
The query system allows the user to construct tables for any combination of countries, indicators and years. Predefined groups of countries (e.g., WHO European region) and indicators may also be selected.
On-screen tables. Download available in Excel/CSV format.
Comparability and data quality
Data were compiled, validated and processed in a uniform way in order to improve the international comparability of statistics. Nevertheless, since health data recording and handling systems vary between countries, so do the availability and accuracy of data reported to WHO. Data comparability is also limited, owing to differences in definitions and/or time periods, incomplete registration in some countries or other national specificities in data recording and processing. International comparisons between countries and their interpretation should thus be made with caution.
Furthermore, the accuracy and comparability of WHO statistics have been seriously challenged by scholars in recent years, among others by Murray, Lopez and Wibulpolprasert (2004) who claim that the WHO is unable to provide reliable and comparable health statistics in many areas.
Murray, Christopher J. L., Alan D. Lopez and Suwit Wibulpolprasert. 2004. “Monitoring global health: time for new solutions”. British Medical Journal 329 (November): 1096-1100.