Informing Policy

The Farr Institute conducts cutting-edge health informatics research to improve the health and care of populations. The Institute’s research can inform policy in sectors such as health, housing, transport, education, economic development and inequality.

Raising awareness of the benefits of using electronic health records in research and linking anonymised data across multiple sectors

A National Clinical Strategy for Scotland, Scottish Government

The huge opportunities available from linking Scottish health data were highlighted in this strategy and the transformational changes from potential investment in e-health and technological advances were identified in section (i), page 39. The strategy is a framework for the development of health services across Scotland for the next 10-15 years, giving a high level perspective of why change is needed and what direction that change should take.

“There are great opportunities for NHS Scotland to put its valuable data resource to better use…there is the possibility of analysis of vast amounts of data to identify and study health and treatment trends in almost the entire population. Examples such as the Farr Institute are beginning to build capacity in health informatics research, tapping into electronic health data and combining this with other forms of research and routinely collected data…Growing evidence suggests that health informatics data can be particularly powerful…to target treatment and achieve the best health outcomes.”

Supporting the development and evaluation of policy by demonstrating effect and impact on populations

Flying Start, Welsh Government
This project linked multiple health data sets with the National Pupil Database and flagged households containing an eligible child (0-3 years) in order to identify any differences in health and education outcomes between Flying Start families and ‘Next Most Deprived’ families.

Journey mapping for patients with multiple chronic health conditions, Welsh Government
This project selected a set of patients with chronic conditions (stroke, diabetes) and linked multiple health data sets, attempting to identify groups of patients with similar treatment ‘pathways’ in order to inform policy.

Examining fuel poverty using Home Energy Efficiency Data and routinely collected health data, Welsh Government
This project linked Home Energy Efficiency Data to multiple health data sets in order to identify any differences in health outcomes for residents before and after the implementation of home energy efficiency interventions.
Evaluating the Impact of Smoke-free Legislation from Natural Experiments Using Routine Data

This programme of studies used natural experiment methods to show that smoke-free legislation passed in Scotland in 2006 was associated with a number of public health benefits. The policy change reduced rates of respiratory disease (e.g. hospitalizations for childhood asthma), reduced the risk of pre-term baby deliveries and reduced the number of infants delivered small for gestational age. It selectively reduced myocardial infarction and cerebral infarction type stroke events. A dramatic increase in attempts to quit smoking was observed at the beginning of 2006 in anticipation of the legislation.

Impact of smoke-free legislation on perinatal and infant mortality: a national quasi-experimental study

Impact of Scotland’s Comprehensive, Smoke-Free Legislation on Stroke

Association between Smokefree Legislation and Hospitalizations for Cardiac, Cerebrovascular and Respiratory Diseases: A Meta-Analysis

Impact of Scotland’s Smoke-Free Legislation on Pregnancy Complications: Retrospective Cohort Study 

Building capacity to support research relevant to policy

Researchers based in Government departments need to commission and undertake research. Work conducted by The Farr Institute to link many anonymised health and administrative datasets will enable a step change in capability to support policy-relevant research.
Accredited Government social researchers and statisticians are also based at The Farr Institute and lead on the development of policy-relevant research projects.

Improving knowledge exchange between academics, practitioners and policy makers

The Farr Institute aims to improve knowledge exchange through research publications, events and by working directly with policy makers. To do this, the Institute has brought together a group of international researchers experienced in:

  • Providing policy briefings to senior civil servants and Government ministers
  • Contributing to policy briefings to international organisations such as the World Health Organization and the European Commission
  • Working with third sector organisations, such as medical charities and NGOs which lobby Governments at different levels to address issues and improve services
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