Better data to improve health and wellbeing

We have been reaching out to colleagues in local authorities and public health departments to highlight the value of research evidence in improving health and well being among local populations. The CLAHRC is forging useful links with our partners in local councils, bridging the gap between research and the front line.

Local authorities are a key audience for the CLAHRC as they are responsible for public health in their area. Public health includes prevention of illness and disease, sexual health and smoking cessation.

CLAHRC partners Islington and Camden Councils run lunchtime learning sessions for staff as part of their Using Data Better initiative. They invite speakers from various sectors to present the potential for data to improve health and health services for local residents. The boroughs have joined forces to deliver public health, and have a team of data analysts at work –  identifying issues that have a negative effect on people’s health, and planning to deal with those issues.

In October Dr Chiara Di Poli (below left) presented to public health staff and analysts in the two Councils.  Chiara was joined by the CLAHRC’s Professor Gwyn Bevan and health economist Dr Elena Pizzo, presenting evidence of the limited impact of current policy options on the projected diabetes ‘epidemic’ in Islington, which stimulated a lively discussion about what Islington might do to tackle this.

Chiara’s work is part of a wider CLAHRC study, led by Professor Bevan, investigating the design of research and decision support processes to ensure the utility of research outputs. We are making efforts to make our research more “user friendly” and accessible to colleagues in the NHS and local government so they can use it in decision-making around planning and commissioning services and interventions for the populations they serve.

There was learning on both sides – our researchers got an insight into the challenges faced by staff on the front line and an appreciation of the type of data local authorities collect and analyse to improve health and well-being. We offered projections on the likely impact on diabetes prevention of current policies adopted by local authorities.

Feedback from our audience was extremely positive and we hope this is the start of a fruitful collaboration between the CLAHRC and the Public health teams within Islington and Camden.

“Once again, thanks for delivering a wonderful presentation – many of us were fascinated by your progress, and it’s no surprise that our head of dept. is now keen to collaborate further”

Mustafa Kamara, Intelligence & Information Analyst, Camden and Islington Public Health

National Population-Based Study Comparing Treatment-Related Toxicity in Men Who Received Intensity Modulated Versus 3-Dimensional Conformal Radical Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

CLAHRC PhD student Ryan Palmer enjoys success at the Health Services Research UK conference

CLAHRC PhD student Ryan Palmer enjoyed success at the recent prestigious Health Services Research UK conference in Nottingham.

Ryan (pictured above) is a Health Foundation Improvement Science PhD Student working under the primary supervision of Professor Martin Utley.

His research, part of our Methodological Innovation theme, focuses on patient flow between community and hospital services and he won one of the runner up prizes for best oral presentation held at the conference, which brings together researchers and NHS organisations, alongside third sector bodies, professional groups and private sector associates.

Ryan’s poster (below) and oral presentation focused on patient flow within community healthcare.

Ryan is based at one of our CLAHRC partner organisations – North East London NHS foundation Trust – where is he is helping the Trusts leaders and managers model patient flow and referral patterns so they can better design and plan services.

Helping the NHS visualise complex referral data

The NHS generates huge amounts of data but using it to track patient flow and pathways of care requires sophisticated mathematical modelling. CLAHRC PhD student, Ryan Palmer, is “embedded” within one of our partner organisations – North East London Foundation Trust (NELFT) – where part of his work involves offering support and guidance to managers and staff interested in getting the most out of the data they routinely collect.

An example of Ryan’s visualisation of referral patterns between hospital and community services in a busy NHS Trust.

Ryan ran a successful workshop hosted by our research partners NELFT training healthcare professionals how to use network mapping methods for understanding referral data in community healthcare. Care leads who attended came from a range of healthcare disciplines and services, including paediatrics, adult physical health, mental health services and social care.

The two-hour session involved: how to prepare data, how to create network diagrams and the beginnings of discussions as to how these methods may be used to inform service planning. Interest was generated during the session, with many realising the benefits of these methods.

Visualising referral data helps researchers and care managers to work together and understand otherwise overwhelming and hard to interpret data for complex systems. These network maps highlight important characteristics of referral activity and can help identify services that exhibit interesting dynamics. Sharing this work with healthcare professionals, they helped to stimulate further conversations around the analysis and organisation of referrals in community healthcare services.

Our collaborators are currently seeking to implement a single point access (SPA) for older adult community services. This session formed part of the ongoing work with our collaborators to help inform their thinking in designing this SPA.