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Decision support systems for assessing animal health threats and vunerabilities - SE0531

The prioritisation of resources in health systems constitutes a constant challenge for risk managers, which includes Defra senior managers and Ministers. The Science Advisory Council (SAC) review commented that whilst Defra’s approach to risk was founded in good practice, it was not always consistent in terms of the assessment of probability and impact and the handling of uncertainty. Today, it is common to characterise diseases/events and their severity with some metrics of importance and urgency (e.g. morbidity, mortality), but not address the full range of stages in the threat pathway including events leading to the occurrence of the risk (vulnerabilities), its consequences (impact) and the measures to control/reduce its impact (reaction capability).

A consistent approach to prioritisation of emerging animal health related risks may facilitate the management of new events and must rely on the rational and systematic utilisation of the expertise held by Defra’s staff. A coordinated and systematic decision tool will ensure coherent risk management with a robust overview of the risks to the country in regards to animal health. Such a tool would also facilitate a shift from vertical structures, e.g. disease-specific, to horizontal systems, where integrated identification and prioritisation of threats and vulnerabilities to Defra’s animal health objectives will be the aim.

This project proposes to develop an electronically based decision tool using on multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA). The tools will be developed through decision conferencing with active participation of Defra officials to identify criteria and develop the model framework. The decision tool will then be trialled with retrospective data, before applied to a real-time situation. Decision conferencing will be used in each step of the validation process as well.

The main outcome is a completed decision tool that will rank vulnerabilities and threats of multiple and potentially very different situations in a structured and systematic way to allow horizontal comparison. Furthermore, the interactive approach will generate awareness and skill-sharing of decision-making approaches and issues in animal health related situations between a variety of organisations.
Overall aim: To develop and test a multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) tool to assess animal health and vulnerabilities presented by senior officials within defra. This will be accomplished by fulfilling following objectives:
1. Develop and trial an excel-based decision support system with the decision model, which can be used recursively for assessing animal health-related threats/vulnerabilities and prioritise actions.
a. Define a set of criteria for the regular assessment of the methodology. The following criteria are envisaged: acceptability, timeliness, sensitivity, specificity.
b. Identify of gaps and overlaps between risk streams and thereby improve efficiency gains in the organisation
c. Transfer knowledge on use of the disperse data/intelligence produced individually by all the risk streams by pure aggregation and generalisation.
2. Training/experience in methodology at different levels, which will results in direct applicability and probable application in other areas of Defra and VLA operation.
a. Senior risk managers will be actively involved in the decision conferencing meetings and thereby gain experience in using and applying to the tool.
b. Project team, VLA and scientific in officers in Defra will gain experience in running decision conferencing and in developing and applying the decision tool.
c. VLA will work closely with LSE to obtain scientific knowledge about the techniques and theory behind the decision tool and thereby add to the skills and knowledge-base available to Defra through their agencies.
3. Establish collaboration with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and other prestigious Business Schools (Leicester and Warwick)
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : SE0531 SID5 Version 2 04Apr11   (1551k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2010

Cost: £38,176
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Veterinary Laboratories Agency
Animal Diseases              
Animal Health              
Plants and Animals              
Statutory and Exotic Viruses              
Veterinary Surveillance              
Fields of Study
Animal Health