The relevance of the UNRWA health data is high for any research which aims at studying the health condition of the Palestine refugees who use UNRWA health services. Health data based on the routine reporting of medical diagnosis have high relevance for studies of health and morbidity. A uniform reporting system across the five UNRWA Fields of operations provides opportunities for comparisons. Health data have been produced by the Department of Health since the inception of UNRWA and thus provide opportunities for studies of trends in the health situation of Palestine refugees over the last 45 years.

The scope would improve if health information were linked up with reliable demographic data, preferably in a computerized system. Such a link would improve research possibilities by manifesting which segments of the refugee population the data cover. Such a link would also provide opportunities for studying relations between health related conditions and socio-economic factors. At Health Centre level, clinical data are recorded in files prepared on the basis of the family's registration card. If these primary data are kept and stored (i.e. not destroyed), the quality of the data is higher.

The reliability of the medical diagnosis may be affected by short time for consultations for each patient. Additional resources to increase the time per consultation would probably increase the reliability of the data. (Diagnosis are in some cases based on laboratory standards-as opposed to clinically based standards-and rely on available laboratory equipment. To evaluate whether UNRWA Health Department has sufficient such equipment is outside the scope of this study.)

Access to health data is limited to statistics (number of cases) on a Field level of aggregation. Access to primary data on a lower level of aggregation, such as individual, clinic and Area level would increase the research value of the data. Again this depend on whether the Agency's Health Centres store the primary data which they produce and collect. Protection of the refugees' right to privacy is particularly important and could be safeguarded by anonymization procedures and by requiring research permissions to access the data.


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