A call for standardised age-disaggregated health data.
Diaz T., Strong KL., Cao B., Guthold R., Moran AC., Moller A-B., Requejo J., Sadana R., Thiyagarajan JA., Adebayo E., Akwara E., Amouzou A., Aponte Varon JJ., Azzopardi PS., Boschi-Pinto C., Carvajal L., Chandra-Mouli V., Crofts S., Dastgiri S., Dery JS., Elnakib S., Fagan L., Jane Ferguson B., Fitzner J., Friedman HS., Hagell A., Jongstra E., Kann L., Chatterji S., English M., Glaziou P., Hanson C., Hosseinpoor AR., Marsh A., Morgan AP., Munos MK., Noor A., Pavlin BI., Pereira R., Porth TA., Schellenberg J., Siddique R., You D., Vaz LME., Banerjee A.
The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals agenda calls for health data to be disaggregated by age. However, age groupings used to record and report health data vary greatly, hindering the harmonisation, comparability, and usefulness of these data, within and across countries. This variability has become especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, when there was an urgent need for rapid cross-country analyses of epidemiological patterns by age to direct public health action, but such analyses were limited by the lack of standard age categories. In this Personal View, we propose a recommended set of age groupings to address this issue. These groupings are informed by age-specific patterns of morbidity, mortality, and health risks, and by opportunities for prevention and disease intervention. We recommend age groupings of 5 years for all health data, except for those younger than 5 years, during which time there are rapid biological and physiological changes that justify a finer disaggregation. Although the focus of this Personal View is on the standardisation of the analysis and display of age groups, we also outline the challenges faced in collecting data on exact age, especially for health facilities and surveillance data. The proposed age disaggregation should facilitate targeted, age-specific policies and actions for health care and disease management.