Do directors of public health use PHE data in DPH annual reports?
PHE ePoster Library. Flowers J. Apr 10, 2019; 257464; 15245
Julian Flowers
Julian Flowers
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Abstract Introduction
PHE produces a large number of health indicators and data intended for use by local authorities. If these data are to be useful for local authorities we hypothesized that DsPH should be referring to and using these data in annual reports. We set out to try and look at the frequency of use of PHE data in reports.
We used a combination of data science techniques to automate the discovery and download of DPH reports from the web, and natural language processing (NLP) to analyse reports en masse. We created a set of keywords to search through the texts to estimate the frequency of referral to PHE data and the 'mention rate' - the proportion of reports containing at least one reference to PHE data. All analysis - web scraping and NLP was conducted using R software.
We were able to identify and analyse more than 600 reports over several years. There was no single comprehensive repository of reports and even with iterative searching we were unable to find reports for some areas. This involved using automated Google searching on each local authority web site and iterating through identified web-links. Of the reports identified 70% referred to PHE or PHE data. Reviewing those reports not detected as containing references to PHE data revealed that this was often due to their not using formal referencing.
PHE data is widely referred to and used in DPH reports but is often not formally referenced. It is feasible to develop an automated process using R to identify and review of reports and create a central repository although some manual searching is required to ensure a comprehensive dataset. This approach could be part of assessing the impact of PHE data outputs.
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