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The Department of Health promotes community data awareness

28 December, 2006

The Department of Health has launched new resources to boost awareness about its data collections and improve understanding about how health information is collected, used and protected.

Acting Director General Dr Simon Towler said the resources were developed by the Community Data Awareness Working Group, established last year with the Health Consumers’ Council and other stakeholders, to increase the public’s knowledge about the Department’s Statewide Health Data Collections.

The group has designed brochures and posters for display in hospitals, GP clinics, community health services and local libraries to raise awareness about the collections.

Training will also be offered for health service providers, to help patients understand data collection issues, and a new website and booklets will contain more detailed information.

Dr Towler said it was important the community understood the importance of using health data and were confident that their rights and privacy were being protected.

“Delivering sustainable and world-class health care to the people of Western Australia requires impeccable knowledge of how our systems are working and where there is need for improvement,” he said.

“The data is crucial for monitoring health outcomes, planning and evaluation of health services, and medical research. It is also needed for reporting to the Federal government.

Dr Towler said the collections provided important health information about the diagnosis and treatment of patients in WA hospitals and about cancer, mental illness and the health of mothers and babies.

“These comprehensive collections cover the state’s public and private providers and supply a wealth of knowledge that is critical to the future health of all Western Australians,” he said.

“The data has been collected for many years and it is now possible to identify long term trends in community health.

Dr Towler said personal health information was securely stored, access was limited to authorised, qualified staff and its use was subject to a range of approvals and privacy controls.

“Researchers must follow strict conditions to keep personal information confidential and all data published in reports is de-identified and cannot be matched to individuals or small groups,” he said.

Executive Director Health Consumers’ Council Michele Kosky said she hoped the new resources would raise community awareness about an important issue.
“We believe that this is an important step towards greater public knowledge which improves the accountability of the Department of Health to the community.” 

The Department of Health is required under legislation to collect, store and analyse the health information of all West Australians.

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