Public Health Wales empowers programs by bringing data to the field

Public Health Wales analyzes data around substance abuse in and around Wales with the goal to meet needs, reduce incidences, and support the greater population.

With Tableau, the organization can identify behavioral patterns within 130,000+ transactions. Analysts, front-line staff, and managers from the drug services administration use this data to effectively administer services throughout the region.

Today, Public Health Wales can leverage data in the field—impacting programs as they happen.

Tableau: What types of data do you regularly analyze?
Chris Emmerson, Information Analyst Specialist, Public Health Wales: I use quite a lot of data from different sources to look at often alcohol harms and drug harms around Wales to support people in working out how we can meet the needs, reduce the harms, and support the population. So I look at a lot of big data sets, things like hospital admissions, death data, things like that. But the one that I've been most involved in recently is the data from the Harm Reduction Database.

The data set that I use most and that I'm lucky enough to talk about here is data from needle and syringe programs all around Wales.

Tableau: How does data play a role in your programs?
Chris: Well, when people are working in drug services they're working with a client group that's often very difficult, they might not be able to see everything that's happening in their service. They might not be able to understand the patterns of people coming in during the day. So I think what the data really gives us the opportunity to help them to do is to really uncover what's happening across the whole of the service.

They upload details of every single transaction that happens. So last year that was more than 130,000 transactions. There were three million needles dispensed. And we also have details on all the people who were using those services.

Tableau: Can you give an example of how access to more comprehensive data helps lead to better service?
Chris: So the people who are working with that client group, the people who are delivering those services, and to use that data to empower them to make those services even better, to work even more effectively with the people that they're working with, and to help them understand their service and its full size and shape in a way that you can't do without really looking at the data and all the detail.

The people who are working with client groups use data to empower them to make those services even better, to work even more effectively with the people that they're working with, and to help them understand their service and its full size and shape.

Tableau: What is a recent project that you've been able to accomplish with Tableau?
Chris: What we've been able to do recently is start putting all this data together so we can look at the different patterns of when people start, what ages they start, what drugs people are using when they start, and how that's progressing on their career. So you have a new cohort of people starting particular kinds of drugs—to be able to share that between lots of services when you see it happening across an area is very useful, because you have the opportunity for those services to start to take action as something is happening (or hopefully even before).

Probably what it's done most is given us the opportunity to bring all of these things out of the data and bring them to the surface so that people can really understand at quite a sophisticated level what kinds of things are going on.

It's a great deal of data. It's very high quality data. It's data that people in other parts of the UK aren't as lucky to have. So we feel it's really important that we use it to its greatest ability. We have been getting a little bit better, I think, about using it to support people who are commissioning services, support people who are shaping policy. What's been very valuable about Tableau is the ability to take that data to the people who are actually on the ground.

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