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Closing the Health-Care Data Gap

While much of the world today suffers from information overload, there are still places where information is scarce. And too often that scarcity is a feature of developing countries' health-care systems, costing people their lives.

BOSTON – While much of the world today suffers from information overload, there are still places where information is scarce. And that scarcity sometimes costs people their lives.

In the maternity ward of Zanzibar’s largest public-health facility, Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, patient data are listed on a dry-erase board. The information on the board consists of the number of women admitted, the type and severity of their conditions, and whether or not they survived.

These data may be better than nothing, but not by much. There are no dates or timestamps or long-term filing systems. With photographs of the board strictly forbidden, records last only as long as they are on it.

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