Funding for enhanced use of health survey data
posted on: May 8, 2012
The Medical Research Council (MRC) has awarded £170,000 to a team of researchers in the MRC/CSO Social & Public Health Sciences Unit, to undertake methodological work to improve the utility of data on alcohol and other measures available from health surveys. The team lead by Dr Linsay Gray also involves collaborators from the MRC Biostatistics Unit in Cambridge, NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Centre for Social Research.
In terms of health, social and economic costs, alcohol is likely to be the most harmful substance present in society. Interventions to tackle alcohol harm require good quality evaluation, the accuracy of which relies on robust consumption estimates over time. However, the best indicator of consumption – alcohol sales per capita – is only available at an aggregate level.
Alternative measures can be obtained from national health surveys which are designed to make major contributions to the monitoring of population health. However, the validity and usefulness of such data rely on the extent to which the samples surveyed are representative of the general population. In UK settings, response to health surveys has declined over the last decade or so, and there is growing concern that data collected are increasingly non-representative of the general population. Currently, attempts to address bias arising from such non-response use only respondent data based on limited socio-demographic characteristics, and do not capture or adjust for health aspects, such as those related to alcohol, or allow for differences between responders and non-responders in these aspects.
The aim of the project is to explore and address non-response bias in the health surveys, with a specific focus on alcohol consumption using the Scottish Health Surveys
, census information and routine hospital admission and mortality data.
Dr Linsay Gray said: “The resulting corrected estimates of alcohol consumption and other health-related measures in the population will enable superior testing of the effectiveness of interventions such as the introduction of minimum unit pricing and more finely honed services.”