By Ann Greenwood, Co-Project Lead for the curriculum development of the Professional Specialization Certificate in Population Health Data Analysis.
We live in a data-filled world. In recent years, many of us have become increasingly aware of this fact and cautious about how our data is being protected and used. But do we really know the value of this data for improving our health and social well-being?
Our personal data is collected in numerous ways by a wide range of public service delivery systems. These services include government departments, education systems, social housing organizations and health and social care providers. Data held by these service agencies is commonly known as administrative data because it is collected primarily for administrative purposes such as registrations, record keeping and service transactions. The structure and scope of this data is useful to researchers due to its inter-disciplinary, cross-sectional and longitudinal attributes. It also provides a cost-effective source of individual-level records to address important questions regarding societal factors impacting people’s lives, health and well-being.
Research using administrative data can explore a wide range of issues in our society such as:
Despite their enormous value, administrative data comes with specific challenges. Unlike researcher collected data that undergoes a high degree of care over the type and timing of information collected, administrative data is often referred to as “messy data”. As a result, researchers must be knowledgeable of the data’s potential limitations and be skilled in data assessment, modification and transformation. An article published with the support of the UK Administrative Data Research Network highlights these views by addressing The Good, the Bad and the Clunky: Improving the Use of Administrative Data for Research. The article addresses ways to improve and maximize the use of administrative data. It also emphasizes the skills and knowledge that researchers need to effectively use this data.
If your career passion calls you to make a difference in our society, consider exploring the value of administrative data! Using administrative health data to study important questions directly related to the health of our society is a key component of what the PHDA 01 Working with Administrative Data course offers.
Register in the upcoming course: Working with Administrative Data (PHDA 01)
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