IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

“Whose data is it anyway?” The implications of putting small area-level health and social data online


  • Exeter, Daniel John
  • Rodgers, Sarah
  • Sabel, Clive Eric


Data from electronic patient management systems, routine national health databases, and social administrative systems have increased significantly over the past decade. These data are increasingly used to create maps and analyses communicating the geography of health and illness. The results of these analyses can be easily disseminated on the web often without due consideration for the identification, access, ethics, or governance, of these potentially sensitive data. Lack of consideration is currently proving a deterrent to many organisations that might otherwise provide data to central repositories for invaluable social science and medical research. We believe that exploitation of such data is needed to further our understanding of the determinants of health and inequalities. Therefore, we propose a geographical privacy-access continuum framework, which could guide data custodians in the efficient dissemination of data while retaining the confidentiality of the patients/individuals concerned. We conclude that a balance of restriction and access is needed allowing linkage of multiple datasets without disclosure, enabling researchers to gather the necessary evidence supporting policy changes or complex environmental and behavioural health interventions.

Suggested Citation

  • Exeter, Daniel John & Rodgers, Sarah & Sabel, Clive Eric, 2014. "“Whose data is it anyway?” The implications of putting small area-level health and social data online," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 114(1), pages 88-96.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:hepoli:v:114:y:2014:i:1:p:88-96
    DOI: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2013.07.012

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Norman, Paul & Boyle, Paul & Exeter, Daniel & Feng, Zhiqiang & Popham, Frank, 2011. "Rising premature mortality in the UK’s persistently deprived areas: Only a Scottish phenomenon?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(11), pages 1575-1584.
    2. A S Fotheringham & D W S Wong, 1991. "The Modifiable Areal Unit Problem in Multivariate Statistical Analysis," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 23(7), pages 1025-1044, July.
    3. Nikolay Nenovsky & S. Statev, 2006. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00260898, HAL.
    4. Sabel, Clive E. & Gatrell, Anthony C. & Löytönen, Markku & Maasilta, Paula & Jokelainen, Matti, 2000. "Modelling exposure opportunities: estimating relative risk for motor neurone disease in Finland," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 50(7-8), pages 1121-1137, April.
    5. Cox, Matthew & Boyle, Paul J. & Davey, Peter & Morris, Andrew, 2007. "Does health-selective migration following diagnosis strengthen the relationship between Type 2 diabetes and deprivation?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 32-42, July.
    6. Exeter, Daniel J. & Boyle, Paul J. & Norman, Paul, 2011. "Deprivation (im)mobility and cause-specific premature mortality in Scotland," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(3), pages 389-397, February.
    7. Dahlgren, Göran & Whitehead, Margaret, 1991. "Policies and strategies to promote social equity in health. Background document to WHO - Strategy paper for Europe," Arbetsrapport 2007:14, Institute for Futures Studies.
    8. M. Ruth & K. Donaghy & P. Kirshen, 2006. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Regional Climate Change and Variability, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    9. A S Fotheringham & D W S Wong, 1991. "The modifiable areal unit problem in multivariate statistical analysis," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 23(7), pages 1025-1044, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:hepoli:v:114:y:2014:i:1:p:88-96. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu) or (). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.