Most if not all readers will recognise that the name Where there is no data is inspired by the very popular health care guide, Where There Is No Doctor, first published in 1970 and still available to buy or to download as a PDF from Hesperian.  Where There Is No Doctor acknowledges that in many settings, there is a major deficit in trained health care workers. While recognising that this deficit needs to be addressed, it also acknowledges that there are practical things that people with basic training or no training can do to deal with medical problems and promote health.

Where there is no data is an initiative about data for health. How to collect it. How to find it. How to understand it. How to use it.

Good data is the basis of good public health work.  It helps us know how and where to spend money and time. It helps us to know what is going right and what is going wrong.  It helps us to see that some people are treated unfairly, and how as a result they are far more likely to become ill and die.

Yet in many situations there is not nearly enough data.  Or if there is, it is often not available in ways or forms which can be easily understood.  Different types of data serve different purposes, but the communication between different forms of knowledge is often very poor, with practitioners tending to focus on their own specialities and not appreciating those of others.

Sometimes there is data but those who need it most do not have the skills to use it.  This is not so much a case of “where there is no data” but “where there is no data use”.  There are also political dimensions: sometimes decision makers ignore or undermine the facts: a case of “where there is no-one listening”.  It is not enough to have good data; we also need to be able to negotiate the politics that influence how data is used.

Where there is no data is a forum for health researchers, activists, practitioners and policy makers. It is about sharing advice and information on how to deal, practically, with situations “where there is no data”.

Our aim is to provide a platform for sharing and discussion.  To start with we will publish blog posts and relevant news on the site and via an email list.  If you would like to receive articles and news via email rather than by coming to this site, please let us know by filling in the form on the Contact Us page.  You can also follow our news and other updates on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

We hope that the blogs and news service will generate discussions online, but we’re open to using other forms of communication too.  We are starting up with a few posts focussed on marginalised populations and HIV, as this is an area where many of us have come across situations Where there is no data.  However, we’d be delighted for the conversation to go beyond those topics.

To begin with, we’ll be working in English.  But watch this space – we’re hoping to find ways of sharing what appears on Where there is no data in other languages.

We also welcome contributions and ideas – please go to the How to get involved page to find out more.