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Health data - a health check - RE0207

The purpose of this project is to understand how reliable national datasets are in describing poor health in rural areas. There is increasing awareness that social exclusion, deprivation, physical isolation and distance from services in rural communities is leading to poorer health outcomes for some rural residents. However, whilst small area research studies can identify these inequalities, these have been geographically isolated and as such there is limited national comparable information on the health of rural communities. This is largely due to the analysis of routine datasets at a large geographical scale (for example health authority level) which is inadequate in identifying the heterogeneity of rural areas where small numbers of disadvantaged people may be hidden. This project is very important in assessing the potential of national datasets to provide a more detailed picture of poor health in rural communities and will be of direct policy relevance to help target policy and resources at those in most need.

This study employs a multi-stage methodology in order to assess datasets for their rural relevance. The process will involve the selection of datasets according to government health and well-being priorities, the development of rural criteria to inform the meetings with relevant organisations in order to qualitatively explore the ‘rural relevance’ of data and finally a statistical review. The statistical review will make recommendations on suitable statistical models for more detailed analysis of the data, identify the optimum size of geographical unit for analysis and provide a detailed opinion on the feasibility and resources required for an in-depth analysis of data from a rural health perspective. The results of the project will be presented in a final report for use by DEFRA in future research and policy strategies.

There are five key objectives in the tender specification:
A) To compile a comprehensive inventory of all the datasets collected on poor health and health service use at national, regional and local levels.
B) To identify and flag up research planned by health organisations on small area data collection.
C) Make an assessment of the suitability of selected datasets for use in a rural analysis, including the degree to which the information can be geographically disaggregated.
D) Where there are problems with using the data to describe health levels in rural areas, to identify the nature of these problems.
E) Make recommendations based on the above as to how Government and others might improve data collection and analysis.

IRH will be responsible for all objectives in this research, there will be input from Keele University during Objectives C, D and E (more detail in section 11 below).
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2003

Cost: £26,556
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Institute of Rural Health
Rural Development              
Fields of Study
Rural Affairs