Chapter 9: Data Science and Innovation
1. Public Health Scotland will have a key responsibility for leadership for data science and innovation for public health. We want to embrace new opportunities to achieve improvements in health and wellbeing outcomes. This means using data to produce insights that enable people to make the right decisions at the right time, personalised to their own lifestyle and health needs, and recognising the powerful structural drivers which influence individual behaviours. Lived experience should be central in all public health services, enabling people to make better decisions about their health and improving the understanding of, and response to the specific problems within communities. We want to make use of the latest insights, technology and methodologies that improve our understanding of prevention, through research into the behaviours of the population. This will be crucial in motivating people and communities and achieving meaningful behavioural change.
2. Data and information have always underpinned our understanding of the public’s health and wellbeing, but we are now within a digital age of unprecedented opportunity to drive further improvements through data science – the approach to understanding and predicting patterns in ever increasingly complex and large volumes and varieties of unstructured data. There is more data available than ever before: on people’s health and wellbeing, on their circumstances, on their genetic make-up, on their habits, on their environment. Affordable cloud computing power is rapidly increasing to enable analysis of such data, and technology is more readily available to people and will become ever more available in the future – including smart and wearable devices, at home diagnostics, and digital therapeutics.
3. We want to use such research to identify the social, economic, environmental and behavioral determinants of health and wellbeing, developing and evaluating interventions and policies for the protection and improvement of it. These resources will inform the preparation of the professionals and researchers who will influence change across the public sector. By illuminating basic social determinants of health and wellbeing and identifying and testing innovative social policy and service interventions, we can help develop practitioners who are skilled in designing, implementing, and evaluating health-enhancing interventions. There is increasing recognition that behavioral, psychological, and social factors play a crucial role in epidemiology and related public health and wellbeing activity, both as risk factors for adverse outcomes and in strategies to promote health and prevent disease.
4. This work will inform practice through research and provide opportunities for innovation, learning and development for those working within and across the public health landscape, allowing them to enhance their professional identity and harness international best practice. A particular focus will be on innovation in public health intelligence and data science, incorporating a ‘whole system’ focus to supporting digital transformation and the effective use of population data. Digital technology and data will be used appropriately and innovatively to help plan and improve public health services; enable research and development; and ultimately improve public health and wellbeing outcomes. For example, in relation to better preventative approaches and cures for diseases, individuals in control of managing their own conditions, and environments which actively drive and support healthier lives.
Question 15: What are your views on the arrangements for data science and innovation?