The Uncounted: Politics of Data in Global Health
In her new book ‘The Uncounted’ Sara L.M. Davis looks at how politics shapes data in the context of another ongoing pandemic: HIV and AIDS and how the same politics are shaping data in the current COVID19 crisis. “Health data is never neutral,” says Davis. “Politics shapes how data is used, what gets counted and what – or who-- is left uncounted”.
Global aid agencies and governments use health data to set priorities, focusing resources in a shrinking list of countries. At the same time, many governments deny marginalized groups exist, so their data is never collected. Since no data is gathered about their needs, life-saving services are not funded, and the lack of data reinforces the denial.
As a result of this and other data paradoxes, the book shows that in the global race to reach the end of AIDS, the world is slipping off track. The Uncounted explores this through interviews with leaders of global health agencies and civil society activists, ethnographic research, analysis of gaps in policies and mathematical models, and the author’s experience as an activist and official. It shows why empowering communities to gather their own data could be key to ending inequalities in healthcare.
Davis vividly shows that not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts. As an anthropologist, a human rights activist and a former Global Fund official, Davis is an insider and an outsider, drawing a rich, nuanced and compelling portrait of the HIV response today.
Joseph Amon, Ph.D., MSPH
Clinical Professor and Director of the Office of Global Health, Drexel University
In The Uncounted, Davis has successfully synthesized the complex decisions guiding bilateral and multilateral funding agencies in the HIV response. Given her own experience and that the book is informed by systematic reviews and key informant interviews, it is accurate while managing to provide a humanized narrative to international development.
Stefan Baral, MD
Associate Professor, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health