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Using Data to Save Lives: The Rockefeller Foundation and Partners Launch $100 Million Precision Public Health Initiative

Initiative Aims to Prevent 6 Million Deaths by 2030

Brings Data Science and Machine Learning to Community Health Systems and Frontline Workers

NEW YORK, 25 September 2019 – The Rockefeller Foundation and leading global health partners announced today a $100 million Precision Public Health initiative to empower community health systems and frontline health workers with the latest data science innovations, including more accurate and precise decision-making tools based on large, integrated datasets, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The initiative aims to prevent 6 million deaths in 10 countries by 2030, by enabling frontline health workers with simple, inexpensive data analytic tools.

This initiative will address the reality that data science and new innovations are not reaching the people who need them most. The Precision Public Health initiative will leverage technologies that are transforming health in wealthy countries to dramatically reduce preventable maternal and child deaths. Partners and collaborators for this initiative include UNICEF; the World Health Organization; The Global Fund; the Global Financing Facility supported by The World Bank Group; and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“We have an unprecedented opportunity to leverage advances in data science and technology that have enriched the lives of society’s most privileged, and transform health for those left behind around the world,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “Working together, we can close the health inequity gap by driving innovation and investment to save millions of lives.”

The initiative will build upon a number of similar efforts on a smaller scale that have already shown encouraging results in applying data science to better deploy life-saving health tools. These include developing real-time risk maps to direct frontline health workers to areas of greatest need, and analyzing non-health data like climate patterns or social media trends to predict and better address health emergencies weeks in advance.

The Rockefeller Foundation-UNICEF Partnership

This initiative will begin in India and Uganda and expand to eight additional countries by 2030.  The work in India and Uganda will focus on reducing maternal and child mortality through a partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation and UNICEF. The integration and analysis of disparate data will enable decentralized decision-making and near real-time monitoring across the primary and community health systems to accelerate the impact of interventions on maternal and child health outcomes. Best practices and key learnings will be applied in additional countries through the regional UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Office to accelerate progress and scale.

“Data is a powerful tool that can help us make life-saving decisions and prevent epidemics before they happen,” said Ms. Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF. “Timely, reliable, and disaggregated data, underpinned by a commitment to universal health coverage, can ensure that vulnerable women, children, and young people get the care they need at the right place and the right time.”

“In Uganda, strengthening community health and leveraging data science go hand in hand,” said Hon. Dr. Jane Aceng, Ugandan Minister of Health. “Data can help us see who is in greatest need, and hold ourselves accountable for meeting those needs. We are looking forward to working with global partners, engaging technology companies, and translating innovations into lives saved and improved.”

Strengthening Local Data Science Capacity, Engaging the Private Sector

The Rockefeller Foundation has been working to improve health around the world 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 will continue to catalyze equitable and quality health for all by using data science to create actionable insights for community health systems.

Over the next decade, The Rockefeller Foundation will lead a global effort to drive data for health equity and precision in public health by convening diverse partners, catalyzing innovation, and developing localized best practices:

  • Sharing knowledge and data through a partner alliance: Enabling countries to tap into a global alliance of experts working on data science for community health, including technology partners who are committed to openly sharing information, datasets, expertise, and other resources.
  • Leveraging innovations from the private sector: Identifying and testing new ways to use digital maps, road networks, climate patterns, and social media data from the private sector to better predict public health challenges such as infectious disease outbreaks before they occur.
  • Partnering with country health agencies: Customizing the initiative’s efforts to fit differing country contexts and population needs, and investing in data science talent and capabilities in local ministries of health.

“Achieving Precision Public Health will require bringing together diverse partners in a broad effort to bring innovations to the community setting,” said Naveen A. Rao, MD, Senior Vice President, Health, The Rockefeller Foundation. “Together, we can leverage data science to create actionable insights for communities and catalyze equitable and quality health for all.”

The Rockefeller Foundation will unveil the new Precision Public Health initiative on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 25 September 2019. Co-hosted with UNICEF as a signature partner in this initiative, the event will bring together leading technologists, global health players, and in-country leaders for a dialogue among diverse voices at the forefront of the tech sector to explore how all people can benefit from advances in data science for health.


About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, 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 that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.

Media Contacts

The Rockefeller Foundation
Estelle Willie
+1 (212) 852-8483

Sabrina Sidhu
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