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Big Health Data for Epidemiology: opportunities and challenges using the SNZ IDI and other sources of "big data" for epidemiological research in NZ

NZ has some of the best linked health and social data in the world. NZ has one of the highest per capita density of epidemiologists in the world. Therefore, shouldn’t we be undertaking more big data, big impact, research?

The Big Health Data for Epidemiology workshop will provide the opportunity to hear about and discuss emerging opportunities for future research that utilises routine health, social and administrative data accessible in the rapidly expanding Statistics NZ Integrated Data Infrastructure (IDI), and other research data based (e.g. PREDICT/VIEW). The IDI combines information from a wide range of government data sources (health, education, tax and revenue).

The potential for more high impact epidemiological (and health services) research for, and from, NZ is clear. To realise this potential, we need to upskill, understand data access issues, share metadata and derived variables, and learn from researchers that have gone before – and help researchers coming after. This workshop aims to contribute to this kaupapa.

About the workshop

  • Outline key elements of the SNZ IDI in terms of what data is included, issues of privacy, ethics and data protection
  • Outline current research (and the research agendas) and collaborations of academics and researchers who are and will be using the IDI
  • Giving examples of research question formulation, methods, collaborative tools for sharing code, meta data, and derived variables for research:
    • Conducted in the SNZ IDI
    • Conducted without (e.g. PREDICT/VIEW, Pharmacoepidemiology Research Network, Injury Prevention Research Unit)
  • Exemplars, comparisons and discussions of potential methodological approaches that take advantage of the high quality linked data.

An overview of the rationale, development and potential of the Virtual Health Information Network (VHIN) can be found in a Options Paper and Implementation Plan that was prepared in April 2015.


0900-0930Introduction to the day, and overview by Statistics NZ of the Integrated Data Infrastructure
1100-1230Collaboration, Sharing Best Practice and Developing the Virtual Health Information Network (VHIN). This session will:
- overview the VHIN, and options for a VHIN ‘charter’
- briefly overview of projects underway in 2016 under the VHIN
- make the case that we have the data to be world leaders in NZ, but we now also need to apply cutting edge methods
- invite discussion and feedback
1330-1500Challenges, Ground Work Required and Motivation for Using IDI: Examples of Work Underway
A series of 15 minute snapshot presentations on epidemiological research underway in the IDI.
1530-1700Existing Epidemiological Data Projects: Lessons Learnt for Future Research
More brief snapshot presentations, plus concluding discussions about the next steps for the VHIN and related activities.

For a more detailed timetable download this PDF - detailed timetable

For details of the presentations and information on the speakers download this PDF - blurbs and bios

Copies of presentations (listed in order of the day)

  • Simon Ross (Ministry of Health) - VHIN