Srinagar: A study by researchers at Stanford University have found strong disparity in the quality of Covid-19 data reporting in India with Jammu and Kashmir among many states faring poorly in Covid Data Reporting Score (CDRS).
As per the study, Karnataka has done well in reporting Covid-19 data transparently while Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are the worst across India when it comes to transparent and accessible reporting of Covid-19 data.
“We present a comprehensive assessment of the quality of COVID-19 data reporting done by the Indian state and union territory governments. This assessment informs the public health experts in India and serves as a guideline for pandemic data reporting by other governments,” the researchers from the Stanford University in the US wrote in the study published in the preprint repository ‘medRxiv’ on July 21.
For the findings, the research team designed a semi-quantitative framework to assess the quality of Covid-19 data reporting done by the states and UTs of the country.
The framework captured four key aspects of public health data reporting – availability, accessibility, granularity and privacy. The research team then used this framework to calculate a ‘Covid-19 Data Reporting Score’ (CDRS, ranging from 0 to 1) for 29 states and Union Territories based on the quality of Covid-19 data reporting done by them in the two-week period from May 19 to June 1.
The findings showed that CDRS varied from 0.61 (good) in Karnataka to 0.0 (poor) in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, with a median value of 0.26. At 0.24, Jammu and Kashmir scored lesser than the median CDRS value.
“Our results indicate a strong disparity in the quality of Covid-19 data reporting done by the state governments in India,” the researchers wrote.
In addition, the researchers identified that Punjab and Chandigarh compromised the privacy of individuals under quarantine by releasing their personally identifiable information on the official websites.
The rest of the states and Union Territories across India including J&K scored 0.5 each on the privacy metric.
Explaining privacy of data vis-à-vis the Covid reporting, the study reads: “Data released by the government should include only the minimum information necessary to conduct public health activities. It should not contain any personally identifiable information. Violating privacy by releasing personally identifiable information can have the following consequences. (i) It can discourage people from cooperating with the government, thereby hurting public health rather than helping. (ii) Women can be victims of harassment calls when their phone number is released.”
On the accessibility aspect, J&K scored a poor 0.08 and was among the bottom five in India. Karnataka and Kerala both scored the highest 0.75 in this metric. UP and Bihar were the worst here too with zero scores.
“Data should not only be available, it should also be easily accessible. We measure the accessibility of data based on ease of access, availability in English, and the presence of trend graphics. Ease of access refers to the ease of getting to the web page where data is reported. Research has shown that trend graphics are superior than tables for identifying and displaying trends,” the study reads.
On availability of Covid data, J&K scored 0.40, better than Assam (0.20), Chandigarh (0.27), Himachal Pradesh (0.20), and Rajasthan (0.27). Here again Karnataka (0.73) remained at the top and Bihar and UP scoring zeroes.
Explaining availability as a metric, the researchers wrote: During a pandemic, few generic questions that people seek to answer are: “How are we doing?”, “How do we know how we are doing?”, “How long will this last?”, “How do the numbers from today compare with yesterday’s?”, “How many people have tested positive so far”, and so on. With such questions in mind we measure the availability of data by checking if the total, daily, and historical data are available for each report item.
When it comes to granularity, J&K’s score was 0.17, with Jharkhand scoring the highest 0.50 even as many states fared badly with zero scores on this metric.
Granularity refers to the stratification of the total number for each report item.
“We check if the total is stratified by age, gender, comorbidities, and districts. Recent studies have shown the role of age, gender, and comorbidities in influencing the outcome of a COVID-19 positive individual,” reads the study.
As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) specimen referral form for COVID-19, data on age, gender, district, and pre-existing medical conditions are collected for each person being tested.
“Therefore, aggregating and then stratifying that information should be straightforward. At a higher level stratified information is useful in the following ways. (i) District level data keeps the public informed about the gravity of situation in their neighbourhood. (ii) People can self-identify how susceptible they are to get infected and hence take the necessary precautions. For example, granular data can answer questions of the kind, “I’m 65 and healthy, should I be worried?” (iii) Scientific community can study the effect of factors like age, gender, and comorbidities on contracting the disease, its progression, and the outcome,” the study added.
According to it, the disparity in CDRS across states highlights three important findings at the national, state and individual level.
At the national level, it shows the lack of a unified framework for reporting Covid-19 data and highlights the need for a central agency to monitor or audit the quality of data reporting done by the states.
Without a unified framework, it is difficult to aggregate the data from the different states, gain insights from them, and coordinate an effective nationwide response to the pandemic. Moreover, it reflects the inadequacy in coordination or sharing of resources among the states in India, the study said.
“Coordination among the states is particularly important as more people start moving across the states in the coming months,” the authors wrote.
According to the latest data available on the website of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the total number of cases in India has reached 14,35,453 of which 32,771 people have lost their lives, while 9.17 lakh have recovered.
Globally, over 16 million people have been infected while 6.47 lakh people have died. The United States is the worst-affected followed by Brazil and India.