Introducing the Health Index and its usage

On 15 June 2023 the RSS Official Statistics Section (OSS) organised a webinar presenting the ONS Health Index with latest developments since its first publication in December 2020. The Health Index has been developed in consultation with over 30 organisations, featuring central government departments, arms-length bodies, academics and think-tank organisations, and representatives from the voluntary and charitable sector.  The statistical methodology follows an established approach to building composite indicators, as outlined in the Composite Indicators and Scoreboards’ (COIN) 10-step guide from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The development and publication of this new statistics aligns with ONS and UKSA 5-year strategy of Statistics for the Public Good, to provide a measure that encompasses the multi-facetted dimensions of health across “Healthy people, healthy lives and healthy places”. Greg Ceely detailed the methodology underpinning the health index, highlighting that the index was constructed with the users in mind by making sure the different sub-domains composing the index would represent meaningful quantities. A lot of work has also been done around communicating the statistics itself in novel ways that would allow the users to explore the dimensions of interests, the visualisation and publication of the health index being an occasion to innovate, including via the award winning use of ‘robot-journalism’ in official statistics publication. In the final part of his presentation, Greg covered the future plans for developing the index further, including visualisation, based on users’ feedback and availability of new data sources.

In the second part of the presentation, Kara Baines and Chris Wilcockson, from Northumbria NHS Trust, described how they adapted the health index methodology to develop the first, Beta version of the index specific to Northumbria providing information down at Lower Layer Super Output Area (LSOA) level. Deriving the index to this increased granularity enables the identification of key drivers of health inequalities and consequently better targeted actions. Developing the LSOA version of the health index has demonstrated the art of the possible for the ONS methodology however several challenges were faced around data access and protecting peoples personal information. Further work is needed to address these challenges and to robustly test the assumptions made in order to develop the prototype into a fully useable tool, with a consistent and timely data set.

The meeting was chaired by the RSS OSS Chair Hira Naveed, with the joint 2-part presentation by Greg Ceely, Kara Baines and Chris Wilcockson followed by a Q&A.

Watch the webinar on YouTube
Download slides for the webinar (PPTX)

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