HealthBridge works with partners world-wide to improve health and health equity through research, policy and action.

Maximizing use of existing data to strengthen program design, evaluation and impact, known as MaxData



This project is brought to you in partnership with Global Affairs Canada and the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH).  Le projet est mis en oeuvre grâce au partenariat entre Affaires mondiales Canada et le CanSFE.

This project is part of the Canadian Collaborative for Global Health. The Collaborative brings together Canadian and global partners to generate solutions to urgent data challenges in global health and gender equality. 

Our Challenge: National and international non-government and civil society organizations play a vital role in improving women and children’s health, especially in fragile contexts characterized by weak state institutions, remote locations, and extreme poverty. They spend time and resources collecting data in order to design, implement and evaluate interventions aimed at addressing the underlying causes of poor health, including gender inequality, in support of Sustainable Development Goals #3 and #5. However, much of the data that are collected for various health and social indicators may already exist in publically available datasets, which may be of higher quality. Using publicly-available data would reduce the need to collect primary data for project baseline measures and would save valuable resources and time, reducing the burden not only on the data collectors, but also on the respondents, particularly women. Conducting baseline surveys is resource and time intensive and barriers such as small sample size, lack of specialists amongst NGO teams to collect data, and survey-respondent fatigue are impediments to obtaining high-quality data. In addition, conducting new surveys for which information already exists or can be revealed by analyzing previously unexamined data raises ethical concerns because of the needless demand it places on respondents.  This project, therefore, will test the feasibility and validity of using existing data to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of program design, evaluation and impact.

Our rationale: Data are critical for identifying vulnerable populations and ensuring heath interventions align with the needs of target groups. Data are also essential for monitoring and evaluating global health and development interventions. In order to design and evaluate health interventions, many NGOs undertake their own data collection at baseline. The accuracy of indicator estimates in NGO-led baseline surveys is often insufficient for project design and monitoring purposes, due to relatively small sample sizes and the inherent high variability of the indicators of interest, which can lead to ineffective program design and poor measurement of outcomes. Considerable time and finite resources are spent collecting project-specific data; however, the data that NGOs collect during baseline surveys may already exist in publically available datasets, or in privately held datasets that may be made available upon request. This project proposes to develop and pilot guidelines to inform the use of publically available data to complement, and in some cases replace, the primary collection of baseline data by NGOs in the field, when appropriate. 


The overall goal of the project is to increase the efficiency of project design, evaluation, and impact by using publicly available data.  

The objectives are to:

  1. Investigate the validity of using publically-available data to complement or replace project-collected data to inform the design and evaluation of projects. 
  2. Develop, pilot-test and adapt guidelines on the use of publicly available data, in collaboration with partner organizations, to:
    1. Determine their effectiveness and feasibility.
    2. Create user-friendly guidelines to inform the work of NGOs.
  3. Increase the use of high quality, publically available data to inform program design, implementation, evaluation and learning.
  4. Increase the capacity of researchers, NGOs and in-country leaders to collect, analyse, and utilize publicly available data to meet their baseline data needs.


Several locations including Ottawa, Montreal and Hanoi. Testing of the guidelines will occur in multiple countries.



September 2018 – September 2020

Achieved Outcomes

Findings indicate:

  1. Potential for increased use of high quality, publicly available data to inform program design, implementation, evaluation, thus leading to the potential of redirecting resources to strengthen project activities;
  2. Potential for increased capacity of researchers, NGOs, and in-country leaders to collect, analyse, and utilize publicly available data to meet their baseline data needs;
  3. Potential for stronger design, monitoring, and evaluation of projects leading to greater impact on health and gender equality.

Further Details

Related Links – external:

Contact person:  Rebecca Brodmann, Project Manager