The Population Health Research Network describes data linkage as the method by which information about people, places and events from different data collections is brought together.
Data linkage is also called data integration or record matching. This methodology re-uses existing data and is non-intrusive because it avoids the need to re-contact people whose information has already been collected.
All governments in Australia agree that, while protecting privacy, data should be more freely available so it is more widely and efficiently used. One of the AIHW’s core services is linking datasets to help researchers and policy-makers tell a bigger story. Australia’s data collections are resources that offer great potential to better understand health and welfare issues, and to improve and save lives.
Research on the health of our community can help shape and improve health and welfare services and programs. For example, using data linkage, the AIHW has shown that the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program has had a positive impact on bowel cancer morbidity and mortality in Australia.
The AIHW’s Data Integration Services Centre can integrate a range of datasets for research purposes. We can link datasets held at AIHW, or arrange to receive datasets from external data custodians. We also offer help and advice with project design, and negotiating access to relevant datasets.
Here is a list of data collections commonly linked by the AIHW.