UK Data Service experts present data workshop at health conference

Article dated: 25 November 2020

More than 60 people tuned into a recent online workshop on accessing and using health data from the UK Data Service.

The event, led by Dr Vanessa Higgins and Dr Deborah Wiltshire from the UK Data Service, was part of the Society for Social Medicine and Population Health (SSMPH) Conference, which this year was held online because the COVID-19 restrictions. Attendees included representives from universities, the NHS, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, Public Health England, Scottish Government and the voluntary sector.

The training began with an introduction to the cross-sectional survey data available from the UK Data Service. These data, such as the Health Survey for England, and Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys, give a snapshot of the population at one point in time. This was followed by an introduction to longitudinal datasets which allow the exploration of change over time, such as Understanding Society, 1970 Birth Cohort Study and Millennium Cohort Study. Tabular health data such the OECD Health Statistics were also highlighted.

Attendees explored how and why they might use each of these data types and how to easily access the datasets from the UK Data Service free of charge. Participants also learnt about the data that could be used for COVID-19 related research. This extends beyond data with health/COVID content to other studies that can be used to explore the impact of the virus on other aspects of life e.g. the Labour Force Survey or the English Housing Survey. For more information, see the blog on COVID-19: Social surveys are now more important than ever.

Vanessa said: "As this was an online workshop, it included a lot of participant interaction such as quizzes, a demo, a practical session and Q&A sessions. The practical session gave participants the chance to get ‘hands-on’ with some of the data: this involved exploring the content of the Health Survey for England dataset and performing some basic data analyses. These interactive elements kept participants engaged throughout the workshop and proved to be very popular."

Dr Vanessa Higgins is a specialist in cross-sectional survey data who has used studies such as the Health Survey for England in her research on obesity. Dr Deborah Wiltshire is a specialist in longitudinal data who has used studies such as Understanding Society in her research on divorce, education and fertility trends.

Further information, including all the materials from the workshop, can be found below:

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