Data linkage funding will drive new insights into the health of households

The composition of a household has the potential to play a role in the social, economic and health outcomes experienced by those that live in it. However, it is currently challenging for researchers to determine individual households and link housing information to other data. This results in a lack of research-ready data on the long-term health conditions or social outcomes within and between different types of households. Better tools and datasets are needed to conduct research on households, their circumstances, and how these change over time - particularly for those with pressing health, social, and housing concerns.

The Healthy Households research team aim to address this knowledge gap by using Unique Property Reference Numbers (UPRNs) in conjunction with de-identified administrative and health data. Encrypting or coding UPRNs provides a secure way to link de-identified information about people sharing the same household, and to link this to other address level data, to better understand the wider determinants of health. In doing this the Healthy Households team will create a research-ready dataset and a toolkit which allows researchers to conduct analyses at a household level, including tools to create household composition and overcrowding measures.

This will enable researchers to explore policy-relevant questions around households and their interactions with public services. This work builds on government level initiatives such as the Geospatial Commission, which aims to promote the use of location data to support government strategies to address housing inequalities and understand the wider determinants of health and wellbeing and a range of social outcomes.

The team will also carry out engagement activities and develop materials to describe household level analyses using UPRNs and their potential benefits. These materials will provide a resource for researchers to work with local communities and focus groups to address key questions and demonstrate how UPRNs can be used for public benefit.

The Healthy Households project is led by Dr Richard Fry, Associate Professor of Environment and Health at Swansea University and ADR Wales academic lead. He said: “The pandemic has highlighted how important household circumstances such as over-crowding are for physical and mental health and education. It has also highlighted the benefits of using information collected routinely by public services for research.

“At present it is hard to understand household circumstances at a UK level due to the difficulty linking housing information to other data such as health and education. Thanks to ADR UK funding, we will be able to exemplify the safe and secure use of UPRNs for research and better understand the challenges arising from linking address level data. This work will help to create better tools and a dataset that will facilitate deidentified research on households that focuses on providing a better understanding to help those with the most pressing health, social and housing needs.“

Collaborating on the project alongside Swansea University are the University of Edinburgh, Queen Mary University of London and Endeavour Health Charitable Trust. The project forms part of the ADR England portfolio, with funding from the ADR England research-ready data and access funding opportunity

This funding to the Healthy Households project forms part of a wider group of successful ADR England grant recipients as part of this funding opportunity, which intended to encourage innovative and creative linkages and access to linked data to drive public good research. Previous announcements related to this grant include:

Healthy Households project

Project timeline: February 2023 – January 2025

ADR UK funding: £710,222

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