On Friday 18 September 2020, the RSS Lancashire and Cumbria local group held an online meeting on Microsoft Teams, titled 'Florence Nightingale at 200: Using data to improve health from the time of the Crimea to the time of the coronavirus'. Professor Deborah Ashby, RS president and director of the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, spoke about how we can draw lessons from the past about using data to improve health to help with the current Covid-19 pandemic.
Deborah first led us through the early life of Florence Nightingale, the well-known English reformer, statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. Florence was born into a wealthy family, and displayed extraordinary abilities at an early age for collecting and analysing data which she would put to great use later in her life.
Deborah led us through the early life of Florence to her young adult years, when she started to learn nursing despite the strong opposition from her family. Florence put both her nursing and analytic skills into use by establishing an institute for the training of nurses and also identifying the main cause of death from the Crimean War based on the data collected.
Deborah also discussed Florence Nightingale’s passion for education, and especially education for all women. In particular, Florence was passionate about the education of statistics. From there, Deborah led us naturally from the times when Nightingale lived in to the current times. A theme that hasn’t changed for the past over 100 years is the importance of statistics, and the importance of the education of statistics. Deborah discussed the need to use effective data modelling to inform policy making, especially in the time of coronavirus.
The event concluded with a stimulating discussion of the issues surrounding clinical trials and coronavirus in Deborah’s talk, involving a number of audience members from a variety of backgrounds.
Written by Hankui Peng, a final year PhD student in the STOR-i Centre for Doctoral Training at Lancaster University.