Health Studies User Conference 2021

Health Studies User Conference examines impact of COVID-19.

The UK Data Service hosted its annual Health Studies User Conference earlier this month, on the 8th July. The one-day event centred around areas of topical interest; unsurprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 featured heavily but the Conference highlighted the wide range of survey data available on many areas of national and urgent concern.

Produced in collaboration with University College London and the National Centre for Social Research, the Conference was held virtually for the second year in a row, due to the on-going COVID-19 restrictions. However, the number of attendees was more than double than that of the in-person pre-pandemic conference. The reach of the conference, in terms of location of attendees, was also much wider than the previous in-person conferences.

Representatives from the UK government, voluntary sector and numerous HE institutions viewed presentations from a number of prominent UK social surveys.

The Conference opened with a discussion of the latest developments from key cross-sectional surveys, including the National Centre for Social Research, the Office for National Statistics, NHS Digital and the new EVENS survey, which is documenting the lives of ethnic and religious minorities during the pandemic.

The Scottish Centre for Social Research examined the challenges of conducting surveys face-to-face during the pandemic, and outlined practical solutions that were test-run by the Scottish Health Survey.

There followed presentations from three longitudinal data studies: Understanding Society, Birth Cohort Studies and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA). While cross-sectional surveys typically show a picture of one particular moment in time, the longitudinal studies produce datasets that demonstrate change over longer periods.

The Conference went on to explore four thematic areas: health and inequalities; ageing; ethnicity and mental health; and COVID-19. Academics from across the UK were able to present their research and network with peers, before the keynote speech on surveys in a post-pandemic world was given by Guy Goodwin from the National Centre for Social Research.

The conference was led by Dr Vanessa Higgins of the UK Data Service, a specialist in cross-sectional survey data. She said, ‘It was a pleasure to develop and host the 2021 UKDS Health Studies User Conference, working with our partners from the National Centre for Social Research and University College London.

The annual conference presents a unique forum for the creators of the large-scale health surveys available from the UKDS to get together with researchers who are using the surveys to conduct important secondary analysis on a wide range of topics. The innovative work on survey methodology  that has taken place over the last yea has been incredible and we are so lucky to have these fantastic survey teams and to have the data available for secondary analysis. The conference was a great success and it has been wonderful to watch it grow over the years from a small seminar in 2004 to a conference with over 170 attendees and parallel sessions. Thank you to Guy Goodwin for his inspiring and thought-provoking keynote presentation about the future of surveys in a post-pandemic world.’

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