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The Rockefeller Foundation and Boston University Launch Commission on Health Determinants, Data, and Decision-making

Boston, MA – The Rockefeller Foundation and Boston University School of Public Health launch an ambitious initiative that combines the insights of social determinants and the power of data to inform decisions that affect the health of populations.

Where we live, learn, work, and play all have a significant impact on our health. The Covid-19 pandemic is a vivid reminder that economic, social, and political factors have a major influence on health outcomes. With the help of technological advances, we can now collect more data on these external determinants that shape the health of populations. However, despite a growing body of evidence, social determinants of health do not always factor into decision-making. Practitioners and policymakers alike need better tools to incorporate data on social determinants into day-to-day decision-making, as well as predict emerging challenges before they become crises.

The Rockefeller Foundation-Boston University Commission on Health Determinants, Data, and Decision-making, also known as the 3-D Commission, aims to address this disconnect by creating a common language between the fields of health determinants, data science, and policy and practice decision-making. It builds on the observation that health determinants matter, that data can help us understand how they matter, and that this understanding can help us decide the most effective means of improving the health of the global population.

Chaired by Dr. Sandro Galea, Dean of the Boston University School of Public Health, the 3-D Commission brings together 25 Commissioners from around the globe and a team of emerging scholars to develop a body of work to advance population health.

“The task of all of us concerned with health is to understand the social, economic, and structural forces that shape health,” said Dr. Galea. “We have done that now for decades, but data science opportunities create a space for us to do that better. How do we bring these two fields together? And how does that synthesis inform decision-making to improve population health? Those are the questions the commission is asking.”

Funded by The Rockefeller Foundation and driven by the Boston University School of Public Health, the 3-D Commission aims to improve health not just by examining the social and economic levers that influence outcomes, but also by engaging policymakers to integrate data and social determinants into their decision-making. Rabin Martin, a global health strategy firm, serves as the Commission’s Secretariat, offering ongoing strategic guidance and driving the Commission’s policy agenda.

“Data science has already transformed many aspects of our lives, but we are just beginning to use it for making large-scale improvements to health in many parts of the world,” said Naveen A. Rao, MD, Senior Vice President for Health, The Rockefeller Foundation. “This Commission will help us to understand how we can harness the power of data and digital innovations to create environments that foster and maintain good health for populations across the world, ultimately advancing us toward achieving health for all.”

More information on the 3-D Commission can be found here.

List of Commissioners:

  • Freddy Abnousi, Head of Health Technology, Facebook
  • Jane Ambuko, Associate Professor and Head of Horticulture Unit at the Department of Plant Science and Crop Protection, University of Nairobi
  • Onyebuchi A. Arah, Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health
  • Samira Asma, Assistant Director-General for Data, Analytics, and Delivery, WHO
  • Kalpana Balakrishnan, Director, World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Occupational and Environmental Health
  • Georges C. Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
  • Katie Dain, Chief Executive Officer, NCD Alliance
  • Sandro Galea, Dean and Robert A Knox Professor, School of Public Health, Boston University
  • Eduardo Gómez, Associate Professor , College of Health, Lehigh University
  • Eric Goosby, UN Special Envoy on Tuberculosis; Professor of Medicine and Director of Global Health Delivery, Diplomacy and Economics, Institute for Global Health Sciences, University of California, San Francisco
  • Heidi Larson, Risk and Decision Science and Director, The Vaccine Confidence Project, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Thomas A. LaViest, Dean, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
  • Gabriel Leung, Dean of Medicine, Helen & Francis Zimmern Professor in Population Health, The University of Hong Kong
  • Laura Magaña, President & CEO, Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
  • Blessing Mberu, Head of Urbanization & Wellbeing, African Population and Health Research Center
  • Mark Pearson, Deputy Director for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD
  • Montira Pongsiri, Consultant on global environmental change and health cooperation projects
  • Sabina F. Rashid, Dean and Professor, BRAC School of Public Health, BRAC University
  • Kyu Rhee, Vice President and Chief Health Officer, IBM Corporation and IBM Watson Health
  • Sherine Shawky, Senior Scientist, Social Research Center, The American University in Cairo
  • Jeffrey L. Sturchio, Chief Executive Officer, Rabin Martin
  • Sheila Tlou, Co-Chair, Nursing Now Global Campaign and Global HIV Prevention Coalition
  • Jeanette Vega, Chief Medical Innovation and Technology Officer, Red de Salud UC-Christus
  • William B. Weeks, Principal Researcher, Microsoft Healthcare NExT
  • Luxia Zhang, Assistant Dean National Institute of Health Science, Peking University

About Boston University School of Public Health
Based in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, the mission of Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) is to improve the health of local, national, and international populations, particularly the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable, through excellence and innovation in education, research, and service. Over 1,000 students, 350 faculty, and 200 staff come to BUSPH to study and work. The community is driven by its shared values of collaboration and engagement, innovation and inclusivity, and justice and equity, as well as its desire to make impactful, lasting change in the world.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission – unchanged since 1913 – is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today the Foundation advances new frontiers of science, policy, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas and conversations. In health, The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to improve global public health for more than a century – from eradicating hookworm in the American South, to launching the field of public health, to seeding the development of the life-saving yellow fever vaccine. The Foundation’s Precision Public Health initiative aims to empower community health systems and frontline health workers with the latest digital innovations – including more accurate and precise decision-making tools based on predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter at @RockefellerFdn.

About Rabin Martin
Rabin Martin is a global health strategy firm working at the intersection of private sector capabilities and unmet public health needs. We believe that leadership in global health requires fresh approaches, new business models and unlikely partnerships. Rooted in our mission to improve health and health equity for the most vulnerable populations, Rabin Martin has been actively engaged in the global and domestic health and development arenas for more than a decade. By blending our expertise in business and public health, we design, develop and evaluate public health programs, extend the influence and impact of our clients and help our clients bring pragmatic solutions to unmet health needs. We work with multinational health care companies and multilateral institutions, government agencies, large foundations and leading NGOs. Rabin Martin is a member of the Omnicom Public Relations Group.