Epidemiological expertise and project design updates

Futureistic health data visualisation

Engaging epidemiological expertise – with Prof. David Preen and Dr Derrick Lopez

In September, the Australian Urban Health Indicators (AusUrb-HI) project team welcomed Professor David Preen, Chair in Public Health, and Dr Derrick Lopez, both at the School of Population and Global Health, University of Western Australia.

The complexity of the AusUrb-HI project and the potential importance of what we might ultimately achieve, have inspired us to find new ways to meet the challenges of integrating health data and developing urban health indicators. To this end, the Population Health Research Network (PHRN) have engaged Professor Preen and Dr Lopez to provide expert advice, guidance and input into the project. They will guide the implementation of data access and ethics applications for the unit-record (individual) level health outcomes data that the project will utilise.

Designing the project’s methods and outputs

On 15th July, AusUrb-HI’s expert Advisory Committee, partners, project team, and representatives from health research and health planning and policy came together in a workshop to consider the project’s design.

The AusUrb-HI project has ambitious goals:

  • To securely integrate highly sensitive health data with a vast collection of varied health determinants data from essential demographics to the built environment;
  • To demonstrate how health determinants and health outcomes vary across Australia’s cities and communities and;
  • How this knowledge can inform planning for health interventions and health services, resulting in improved health outcomes for Australians, and;
  • To seed and provide infrastructure for future research that will further develop these concepts.

The case study leads and project team presented their proposed input datasets and methodologies for developing the new indicators that will ultimately be available to researchers, planners and policy makers Australia-wide. The proposed inputs have been derived from expert advice and literature reviews. The workshop participants considered these proposals in light of the project’s goals and provided insight into end-user needs, existing research and related projects. This discussion raised several important considerations for the team.

Following the workshop, the team have developed detailed specifications and mappings between input datasets and the sub-indicators and indicators and output datasets that will be developed in coming months. Dr Hao Chen, the project’s technical lead, is now undertaking a comprehensive data audit. A process that involves assessing the value of and cross-referencing dozens of datasets and their hundreds of variables.

Next steps

While sensitive data access and ethics applications are prepared and assessed, the project team will continue to develop the technical infrastructure and methodologies for analyzing and visualising the data and prepare the demographic, environmental, and other data that will be integrated with PHRN’s sensitive health outcomes data. Plans and updates will be regularly presented to the Advisory Committee for their review and input.

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This project received investment from the Australian Urban Research Infrastructure Network (AURIN), the Australian Research Data Commons (ARDC) and the Population Health Research Network (PHRN).

AURIN, the ARDC and the PHRN are funded by the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS)