institute for health metrics IHME InstantAtlas_FreeTrial

Helping people interested in global health view, understand and evaluate high-quality health data


The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) is an independent research center based at the University of Washington. IHME aspires to make available to the world high-quality information on population health, its determinants, and the performance of health systems. It aims to achieve this directly, by catalyzing the work of others, and by training researchers as well as policymakers.

We spoke to Peter Speyer, Director of Data Development, to find out more about how IHME is using data presentation tools to explain global health trends and highlight areas for intervention.

He explains that IHME mostly uses existing data to develop estimates for health indicators that can be used by policymakers and those involved in the delivery of health services across the world to evaluate the effectiveness of health care systems. “We use a range of indicators and estimates that we believe will help policymakers to make better decisions,” he says.

Starting point

IHME publishes data and indicators in a number of formats and is always looking for innovative ways to present its work. Interactivity is an important element in this respect, and this led IHME to explore working with InstantAtlas. After a demonstration of InstantAtlas at the Institute, Peter and his colleagues chose to use the software tool because of the intuitive user interface and the option to present data in templates that include maps and other visualizations. Since most analyses at IHME include time series data, the ’play’ functionality is particularly helpful for users to see changes over time and explore patterns and trends in the data.

Meeting the need

IHME’s work is of interest to diverse audiences with very different knowledge and skill levels, ranging from researchers accustomed to working with large datasets to policy officials, program managers and others primarily learning about the data on IHME’s website. “InstantAtlas is a tool that provides value for all those audiences, whether they just want to visualize results, explore trends or look for patterns in the data,” says Peter. Feedback from people who have used IHME’s visualizations is very positive. In addition, IHME appreciates that reports generated by InstantAtlas can be presented from a laptop without the need for an Internet connection, which is very useful for lectures, conferences and other off-site presentations.

child mortality rates by country

Child mortality by Country Report This map shows estimates of neonatal, postneonatal, childhood, and under-5 mortality rates at the country level from 1970 to 2010.

Future developments

IHME currently creates different InstantAtlas visualizations for every publication. Going forward, IHME is planning to present all research results in one large database and will explore how InstantAtlas could be used to map these results as a means of “telling stories” with the data.

bed net ownership report

Bed net ownership and use by country mapped over time (Global), 1999-2008

Key benefits

  • Data are being presented in an innovative and user-friendly way
  • Users without expertise in GIS or mapping can explore spatial data
  • Interactive tools help IHME’s research reach a wide audience

Other InstantAtlas global public safety stories and reports that will interest you

The Institute for Health Policy, University of Texas Health - Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools

Global Health Reporting- Compilation of international health stories

INCAP (Guatemala) - How data presentation is helping health ministers in Central America target intervention programmes

AEDI (Australia) - Using interactive reports to show a nation’s progress in early childhood development

National Institute for Health and Welfare (Finland) - How data presentation is helping the National Institute for Health and Welfare Finland meet its statutory requirement on health monitoring and addressing health inequalities at local area level

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Video Tutorials (hosted on YouTube)

InstantAtlas Essentials Training Playlist

InstantAtlas Desktop Tools Playlist

InstantAtlas Dynamic Reports Playlist

InstantAtlas Server Playlist

News and Articles


Arizona Department of Health Services | ‘Making data presentation meaningful when dealing with low rates of population density’


The Institute for Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of Texas | ‘Making data available to the community through easy-to-use data presentation tools’


Public Health Organization – ”Using data presentation to aid the policy-making process”