October 28, 2015

Arkansas Health Department Data Sets: A Treasure Trove for COPH Researchers

C O P H Doctoral Candidate Student Austin Porter I I I, M P H

Austin Porter III, MPH, DrPH (c)

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) has dozens of data sets, on a variety of health topics affecting Arkansans, that faculty, staff and student researchers at the College of Public Health (COPH) may use. At a presentation at COPH in September, ADH epidemiologist Austin Porter III, MPH, DrPH (c), described some of the data sets and the process for gaining access to them.

Approval from the UAMS Institutional Review Board (IRB) is required for anyone wanting to access ADH datasets, but to help students avoid delays, the ADH is willing to let them seek ADH approval while awaiting a decision from the IRB. However, the data will only be released after the IRB approval is obtained.

The data sets, some of which are maintained by the ADH Health Statistics Branch, provide data on vital statistics (birth, death, marriage, divorce, terminations of pregnancy), the state’s health professions workforce, hospital discharges, and emergency department patients. The data sets also include data from four registries (stroke, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV, and trauma) and from a number of health surveys.

Mr. Porter described his excitement when he first learned about the data sets as a new ADH employee several years ago.

“My reaction was, ‘We are sitting on a gold mine; we should be putting out papers left and right!’” he recounted.

He also saw the potential for collaboration between ADH and COPH around the data. COPH faculty, staff and students may use the data if the appropriate steps are taken.

“Dr. Smith [Director and State Health Officer] and Dr. Bates [Deputy State Health Officer and Chief Science Officer] want students from the College to use data for their preceptorships and final projects,” Mr. Porter said.

Individuals interested in using ADH data need to contact the ADH data or program manager responsible for a particular data set and also submit a plan describing how the data will be used and kept secure. The plan must include the research question or hypothesis, research methodology, and the plan for data security during use and disposal after the project is over. The plan must first be approved by the UAMS IRB and then the ADH Science Advisory Committee (SAC). Data security is a critical component of the plan.

“Having a data plan in place for during and after a study is very important,” Mr. Porter said.

The Department of Health is also in the process of developing an ADH Database Compendium to facilitate identification and utility of available data for various research and programmatic projects. The Compendium will be made available in the near future.

To initiate a data access request and arrange a meeting with the SAC, one should contact Rosalynn Bogard at Rosalynn.Bogard@arkansas.gov or 501-661-2882.

For more information about ADH data sets and registries, go to http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/healthStatistics/Pages/default.aspx