How Bloomberg Uses Data To Tackle The Toughest Problems

How Bloomberg Uses Data To Tackle The Toughest Problems
[Illustrations by Carolin Wanitzek]

Like its namesake, Bloomberg Philanthropies relies on the strategic use of data to guide its work. Here, in five steps, is how global numbers drive the foundation’s local efforts.

By focusing on tobacco control, they can address 60% of the list

1. Rank the priorities

Bloomberg data wonks have simplified the top 10 global causes of death:

  1. Ischemic heart disease
  2. Stroke
  3. Lower respiratory infections
  4. Chronic lower respiratory diseases
  5. Diarrheal diseases
  7. Lung cancers
  8. Tuberculosis
  9. Road-traffic crashes
  10. Hypertensive heart disease

2. Target the most people

More than 2.3 billion people (a third of the world’s population) in 92 countries are ­exposed to at least one proven antitobacco program. To efficiently fill the gap, Bloomberg ­selected 15 countries that combined contain two-thirds of the world’s smokers.

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  1. Philippines 2%
  2. Poland 1%
  3. Pakistan 2%
  4. Brazil 2%
  5. India 11%
  6. Thailand 1%
  7. Indonesia 5%
  8. Mexico 1%
  9. Vietnam 1%
  10. Russia 4%
  11. Bangladesh 2%
  12. Turkey 2%
  13. Ukraine 1%
  14. Egypt 1%
  15. China 28%

Study what works for every audience

Studies have long showed that gross, graphic antitobacco TV ads lower smoking in high-income countries. But in January 2013, new research found that they also work in low- and middle-income countries:

Message Acceptance: (1) 91% Graphic Ads; (2) 85.5% Smoke Testimonials


In Bangladesh, tobacco-related illness and death cost $653 million (in U.S. dollars) annually. Bloomberg funded a four-week campaign showing lungs as a corroded sponge.

Results, after four weeks:

(1) 70% of smokers recalled seeing the ads; (2) 40% of smokers attempted to quit

Follow through

Graphic ads work, but Bloomberg doesn’t declare victory yet. It explores how to deploy other methods ­as well, such as:

Adding warning labels to cigarette packages: 58% Low-income countries that don’t mandate warning labels
Promoting smoke-free area laws: 84% Global population not covered by such laws
Helping government set up programs for smokers: 85% Global population living in countries without quit-assist programs

To learn why Bloomberg ranks No. 2 on Fast Company‘s 2014 list of the Most Innovative Companies in business, click here.