The Need to Rebuild the Foundations of Public Health Systems Data

Main Article Content

Michelle Evans


Public health organisations capture, report on and distribute large amounts of data. This data has many purposes – it may be used to make decisions; drive the funding to be received; or benchmark against peers. This data is trusted, quoted, shared and compared, but is only valid when the foundation information (staffing, costs, activity) in the systems is correct. It has been identified that the foundation information may not reflect the operational structure of many units, and as such the data provided will not be accurate.

Objectives and Approach
While it’s relatively simple to identify the major systems that are involved in capturing this information, it is complex to correct each of these aspects to reflect the intended business model. The greater challenge lies is identifying those systems that aren’t well known – what they are, who maintains them, and critically, what their impact is on the organisation. Correcting the foundation information is not a singular responsibility, as the information belongs with the Divisions and the management of these systems belongs to various corporate departments.

Incorrect foundation information can have significant and long-term financial consequences on a Unit. In a recent example, Health Round Table indicated the cost per NWAU for Unit A was more expensive than their peers. While the initial reaction is to suggest inefficiencies, an investigation found that Unit A was paying the salary of a doctor in Unit B, with data reporting incorrect numbers for both. This error is likely to impact the Price Weights and NWAU targets of both units.

Conclusion / Implications
In order to make better decisions regarding the operational outcomes of our health services, we need to ensure that the foundations of our data systems are accurate. Efforts must be made to rebuild these foundations, and ensure that all stakeholders become responsible for maintaining them.

Article Details

How to Cite
Evans, M. (2020) “The Need to Rebuild the Foundations of Public Health Systems Data”, International Journal of Population Data Science, 5(5). Available at: (Accessed: 5 February 2023).