We're using data to change the way we think about lung health

We're developing a lung health data tracker to change the way we use data to understand lung health. Michael, our health data analysis officer, explains more.

What is the lung health data tracker?

The Taskforce for Lung Health's ground-breaking new data tracker will provide statistical evidence to inform and track the recommendations set out in our five year plan for lung health.

The first project of its kind, it will use data visualisations, statistics and stories to illustrate the Taskforce's recommendations for transforming lung health. Not only will it show the context and history of our recommendations, but it will also provide up to date information on progress.

For example, take the Taskforce's recommendation to reduce air pollution. As part of the project, we're going to tell a story with data to explain what we know about air pollution, how much progress has been made and what more needs to be done.

Why is the data tracker needed?

Currently, data on lung health is spread across a range of organisations, so there are significant gaps in what is covered. We need the data tracker to identify and digest the data sets that are already out there and to highlight what's missing.

Data gaps showcase how far behind respiratory is, compared to other conditions. Take cancer as an example: today, there are effective and well-maintained national data sets for cancer. These provide a crucial understanding and enable new research to take place.

Cancer registries have roots dating back as early as 1929 in Germany and as early as 1945 in England and Wales. What's shocking is that, to this day, lung diseases are still not recorded in this way. As a result, we struggle to answer important questions like 'how many people are there living with a lung disease' and 'how many new people are diagnosed each year?'.

We'll identify gaps in knowledge and make a case for new research, new processes and new insight, paving the way for a national respiratory data set.

Of the data that does exist, it's often difficult to understand or hidden behind closed doors and unavailable to the public. Through the data tracker project, these data sets will be brought to one central location, vetted, analysed and interpreted so that our audiences can get quick and accurate insights.

How is the Taskforce developing the data tracker?

We are collaborating with other organisations to make sure we showcase the most up-to-date information and that we form good relationships for the project.

Once we've gathered the data sets in-house, we analyse them and draw out key insights. We then work with a team of designers to turn those insights into artistic visuals and stories.

How will the data tracker be used?

Our aim is for the data tracker to be used by people with lung disease, their friends and family, members of the public and those concerned about the state of the nation's lung health.

By presenting the data in an interesting and user-friendly format, we aim to engage people who previously would not have had an interest in data. Through this, we hope everyone will be able to gain a better understanding of the problems facing the nation's lung health.

We also hope the project will become a reference point for the sector. We want professionals, academics, policymakers and healthcare professionals to use the information to inform their work, hold responsible parties to account and drive a positive change in the nation's lung health.

The data tracker will launch in December 2019 on the Taskforce website.

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30 October 2019