Acquisition of key data for the Australian Urban Health Indicator project

The Australian Urban Health Indicator project (AusUrb-HI) has hit another milestone with the acquisition of individual linked health data at SA1 level.

SA1 data is the finest aggregated geography available from the Australian Statistical Geography Standard (ASGS) developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for statistical analysis of people and place. Accessing data at this level allows us to delve deeply into health records and outcomes to improve our research’s depth and impact.

Obtaining SA1 health data is an exciting development in the field of research. The majority of existing research has been reliant on SA2 data, due to the difficulty of obtaining SA1 linked health data because of privacy concerns.

Using data at a higher aggregation, like SA2 level, can inadvertently overlook intricate details like localised building densities or vegetation variations.  

“After more than 20 months of hard work, completing multiple rounds of data applications, securing data custodians’ approvals, and ensuring compliance with privacy regulations, the AusUrbHI team gained access to SA1 record health data.

The AusUrb-HI project will now serve as a valuable resource for future researchers. As part of the work, a comprehensive and nationally recognised framework will be developed to help us save time and effort in obtaining similar data, ultimately contributing to the advancement of knowledge and the betterment of society.” — Moein Mehrolhassani, Project Manager  

 AusUrb-HI is a collaborative project between fellow NCRIS facilities: AURIN, PHRN and ARDC, and researchers. The main objective of this project is to demonstrate that the collaboration will facilitate access to restricted linked population health data and generate a new high value data asset, the Heat Health Vulnerability Indicator.  

The Heat Health Vulnerability Indicator integrates linked population health data, demographic determinants, environment, and urban morphology parameters into weighted spatial layers of heat exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. The resulting spatial indicator identifies spatial patterns and areas that are vulnerable to heat and describes the relationship between human health and the built environment. 

AURIN, in partnership with PHRN and NSW Health, took comprehensive measures that will protect personal information during research and once the indicators are released. This involved designing and implementing a de-identification framework, assigning independent data curators on inbound and outbound gateways from the vault, and continuously monitoring the information flow for potential risks. 

Linked patient health outcome parameters are used to determine patient comorbidity and examine a surge in emergency department presentations, hospitalisations, and deaths during and following an extreme heat event. A detailed model of the built environment is created to identify the urban morphology parameters that exacerbate (e.g. urban density, skyview factor) or mitigate (e.g. vegetation, water) population sensitivity to extreme heat. Socioeconomic and demographic parameters from different census years are used to describe population that is more likely to experience heat related illness.   

These parameters are incorporated into weighted spatial layers of exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity and then integrated to derive the final Heat Health Vulnerability Indicator. The resulting fine spatial scale indicator identifies particular areas that are vulnerable to extreme heat along with the associated human health outcomes and the potential mitigating or amplifying effect of the built environment.   

The resulting Heat Health Vulnerability Indicator, together with its documentation and code, will be available to Australian researchers via AURIN. Users will be able to access the indicator for their own research, understand the restricted data access process, as well as replicate the indicator model using their own data and potentially expanding it into other areas of environmental health research. 

Stay updated on Heat Health Vulnerability and other developments…