Australian Institute of Health and Welfare gets $2M for COVID-19 linked data project
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is receiving A$2.9 million ($2 million) from the federal government for its COVID-19 linked data project.
The agency is one of the 14 research groups being funded a total of A$31.5 million ($22 million) by the government’s Medical Research Future Fund to help improve Australia’s understanding of COVID-19.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
AIHW’s national linked data platform is combining COVID-19 case data from participating states and territories with other data sets, such as on aged care, deaths, and hospitalisations. It will also include data from the Medicare Consumer Directory, National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System, Medicare Benefits Schedule, Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and the Australian Immunisation Register.
The agency is protecting an individual’s identity and privacy by de-identifying their information. To reinforce the management of privacy and confidentiality of its data, it uses the Five Safes Framework, which minimises the risk of re-identification by only supplying data to researchers in secure access environments.
WHY IT MATTERS
According to AIHW, linking COVID-19-related data sets will “provide new insights into the health outcomes for people who have been diagnosed with the disease and the effect that COVID-19 has had on the health system and broader community”. It will render a more complete picture of the relationship between COVID-19 and risk factors, the best approaches to prevention or early intervention, and the effectiveness of health and safety interventions.
The linked data sets can also be used by researchers to explore a range of issues associated with the pandemic, such as re-infection rates and the effect of vaccines and treatments.
THE LARGER CONTEXT
Just this week, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation published a report where it offered some recommendations to streamline data sharing to support future pandemic responses. One of its suggestions is enhancing the country’s capability to link health data with non-health data. The agency said this will enable government bodies to anticipate patterns of spread during pandemics, provide projections on the success of interventions, and inform response decision-making by utilising predictive modelling and epidemiology methodologies.
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