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World J Methodol. Dec 20, 2023; 13(5): 414-418
Published online Dec 20, 2023. doi: 10.5662/wjm.v13.i5.414
Using national census data to facilitate healthcare research
Michael Colwill, Andrew Poullis
Michael Colwill, Andrew Poullis, Department of Gastroenterology, St George’s Hospital London, London SW17 0QT, United Kingdom
Author contributions: Colwill M and Poullis A were involved in conception, literature review, writing and review.
Conflict-of-interest statement: All the authors report no relevant conflicts of interest for this article.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article that was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See: https://creativecommons.org/Licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Corresponding author: Michael Colwill, BSc, MBBS, MRCP, Doctor, Department of Gastroenterology, St George’s Hospital London, Blackshaw Road, London SW17 0QT, United Kingdom. michael.colwill@nhs.net
Received: May 31, 2023
Peer-review started: May 31, 2023
First decision: August 24, 2023
Revised: September 9, 2023
Accepted: September 26, 2023
Article in press: September 26, 2023
Published online: December 20, 2023
Abstract

National censuses are conducted at varying intervals across both the developed and developing world and collect detailed data on a wide range of societal, economic and health questions. This immense volume of data has many potential uses in the field of healthcare research and can be utilised either in isolation or in conjunction with other information sources such as hospital records. At a governmental level census data can be used for healthcare service planning by providing accurate population density information but also, through the use of more detailed data collection, by helping to identify high-risk populations that may require increased resource allocation. It can also be a key tool in addressing and improving healthcare inequality and deprivation by both identifying those populations with poorer healthcare outcomes and through helping researchers to better understand the causes of this inequality. Similarly, it has utility when studying the complex causes of disease and assessing the success of strategies designed to tackle these aetiologies. However, the maximum benefit from these various uses can only be realised if the data collection and analysis processes utilised are robust and this requires that census bureaus regularly review and modify their methods in a transparent and thorough way.

Keywords: Census data, Methodology, Epidemiology

Core Tip: National census data is collected widely across the world. Recently, more detailed data on a wide range of societal, economic and health questions has begun to be collected and this vast volume of data has enormous potential in healthcare research. Examples of potential utility are in assisting with healthcare service planning, analysing healthcare workforces, identifying healthcare inequality and it’s causes and understanding the causes of disease. However, census data’s utility is dependent upon robust and scientific data collection and analysis and this requires regular methodological review and improvement by national census bureaus.