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Enabling linkage to maximise the value of public health research data

On behalf of the Public Health Research Data Forum, the Wellcome Trust commissioned research in October 2014 to explore the opportunities and barriers for data linkage in the context of public health research.

Data linkage simply means bringing together two or more sources of information which relate to the same individual, event, institution or place. This project focussed on the potential to link datasets within the context of health research – including datasets collected for the purposes of research and those collected for other purposes (for example information from electronic patient records, cancer registries or socio-economic surveys).

The work was undertaken by an international team comprising researchers based at the University of the West of England (UK), the University of Cape Town (South Africa) and the Centre for Injury Prevention Research, Bangladesh. The research used a mix of literature review, case studies and expert interviews. It looked at low-, middle- and high-income countries to ensure that lessons learned would have wide applicability.

The report provides a detailed analysis of the benefits and challenges associated with data linkage – surveying the statistical, operational and institutional (ethical, legal and public acceptability) issues and their relative importance in different settings. It makes a series of recommendations to the Public Health Research Data Forum to facilitate the wider uptake of data linkage.

Download the report: Enabling data linkage to maximise the value of public health research data:

Summary booklet [PDF 71KB]
Full report [PDF 1.8MB]

Webinar: 13 April, 21.00 to 13.00 (UK BST)

Join a webinar with the project team to discuss the findings of the report

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