Since 1970, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has achieved rapid economic growth, an associated expansion of educational attainment, and an advanced epidemiological transition dominated by noncommunicable diseases and conditions. Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health is modernizing the country’s health information system in an effort to deliver integrated and comprehensive health care services. This is part of the government’s plan to promote general health and prevention of diseases countrywide.
To achieve this, Saudi Arabia is partnering with IHME on a multiyear collaboration to create an integrated health surveillance system for the Ministry of Health to monitor long-term and real-time burden of disease to inform national and subnational health priorities for policymakers. The new system will link all available data sources, including hospital records, pharmacy records, and surveys.
IHME is uniquely positioned to design a comprehensive, multisource surveillance system in Saudi Arabia given the Institute’s experience designing and piloting a system in King County, Washington, to monitor and understand chronic disease disparities and risk factors.
- The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Ministry of Health
1. Provide a baseline study of the burden of disease at the national level
A national-level burden of disease study will be conducted, focusing on a core set of conditions and risk factors to establish a baseline of existing conditions in Saudi Arabia. This will be achieved through a comprehensive review of literature, reports, and local studies conducted in Saudi Arabia, as well as an assessment of all existing data sources maintained by the health system in Saudi Arabia (including mortality data, causes of death data, health surveys, patient registries, and hospital discharge data). A national-level baseline survey will be conducted using electronic data capture methods to gather information on mortality, morbidity, and interventions related to specific conditions and risk factors. The findings of the baseline study will be summarized and presented to the Ministry of Health to inform health policy recommendations to reduce the burden of these conditions and risk factors.
2. Scale up an integrated surveillance system
The purpose of the integrated surveillance system is to strengthen data collection systems and their interconnections so that Saudi Arabia can efficiently capture the required information for tracking the national and subnational burden of disease and provide an overview analysis of the national burden of disease. This analysis will include the following components: use of verbal autopsy data to fill in gaps and check the quality of the vital registration system; assessment of the quality and completeness of clinic data; capacity strengthening through provision of short courses, study visits, and master’s degree training in metrics and evaluation; mapping of key indicators against conditions, risk factors, and interventions for tracking purposes; and examination of linkages across key data sources to ensure that data collection mechanisms are functioning efficiently.
3. Conduct a subnational burden of disease study
With the information generated from the baseline study, a refined survey will be implemented to generate information at the subnational level for an expanded set of conditions and risk factors. The survey data will supplement other secondary data sources such as patient databases and vital registration at the subnational level to provide a complete picture of the burden of disease, risk factors, and intervention coverage within Saudi Arabia. This information will help expand record linkage and system integration to maintain a successful integrated surveillance system in the future.
A tracking system at the national and subnational levels will allow identification of the gaps in health care and disease prevention so that the Ministry of Health can take the necessary steps to raise the level of health for all people of Saudi Arabia. We expect that this collaboration will allow Saudi Arabia to maintain a well-trained staff adept at managing and interpreting the data collected, have a well-functioning health information system that utilizes multiple sources to capture pivotal information, and use both of these to make decisions in a timely and effective manner. In this way, Saudi Arabia can work toward preventing health disparities and identifying the best use of resources to have the greatest health impact.