Judy Edwards

Judy Edwards

Former Minister for the Environment; Science

    Perth leads Australia in health research

    18/11/2005 12:00 AM

    A State Government grant of more than $2million is set to make Perth an international centre for health and medical research following the amazing success of a new data linkage system set up here 10 years ago.

    The WA Data Linkage System was developed by a coalition of researchers and data managers from The University of Western Australia, Curtin University of Technology, The Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and the WA Department of Health.

    The system has already provided the basis for research discoveries that have led to enormous community benefits through new understanding of many medical and surgical issues and procedures including deep vein thrombosis, improved surgical techniques, improved practices in hospital emergency departments, prevention of medication clashes in elderly people and physical illness among people with mental health conditions.

    Now, the WA Data Linkage System is set to become an international centre of excellence providing important data for health research around the globe.

    Science Minister Judy Edwards today said the WA Data Linkage System had already attracted international attention with the results of a number of research projects being applied elsewhere in the world.

    “The State Government is recognising the achievements of the WA Data Linkage System and is supporting its establishment as a national centre of excellence with a grant of $2million from the Office of Science and Innovation,” Dr Edwards said.

    “The system, which trades as Data Linkage Australia, will not only continue to produce immeasurable community health benefits but also will attract millions of dollars of research funding into WA.”

    The Western Australian Department of Health’s executive director of health policy and clinical reform, Dr Simon Towler, said the State’s Data Linkage System was one of the most innovative health data linkage systems in the world.

    More than 350 major health projects have made use of WA’s data linkage system since its beginnings in 1995.

    Dr Towler said surgical practice and health outcomes across a range of common procedures had been improved as a result.

    “Using linked data from WA patients, local researchers have been able to establish surgical standards that have been adopted by regulatory bodies in Australia, Europe, the UK and the US,” he said.

    “Our Data Linkage System provides potential for WA to inform the world of best practice in health care and is the key to success in developing programs in health promotion.

    “Under the Centre of Excellence in Science and Innovation Program, investment and support from the State Government will allow WA health and medical researchers great scope to save more lives and to make significant improvements to the health care of people around the world.”

    Professor D’Arcy Holman, of The University of Western Australia’s School of Population Health and chief investigator for Data Linkage Australia, said one of the most important achievements of the data linkage system was its revolutionary method of stripping patient identifying information from the health data.

    “This means that the majority of health and medical research projects are now able to be done without the researchers having access to any identifying patient details,” Professor Holman said.

    “We are as proud of this achievement in patient privacy as we are of the contribution the system is making to the health of the community.”

    Professor Holman said the science and technology economic sector in WA had already been boosted by the Data Linkage System. The revenue flowing into WA from research grants between 1995 and June 2004 based on the use of the system was $58.4million.

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