The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) has been established to build a nationwide data linkage infrastructure capable of securely and safely managing health information from around Australia.
Data linkage - the method by which information about people, places and events from different data collections is brought together - has been successfully operating in parts of Australia since the mid -1990s. With the establishment of the PHRN, data linkage units and managing nodes now operate across every state and territory in Australia, allowing population health research to be carried out more thoroughly and more effectively.
The PHRN is a national network coordinated by the Program Office located in Perth, Western Australia and comprising a network of Project Participants and Data Linkage Units located in each Australian state/territory.
The work of the PHRN will greatly improve the way linkable health and health related data is made available to approved researchers. This innovative and unique collaboration, builds on the success of well established data linkage units in WA and NSW/ACT. It will greatly enhance Australia's ability to research, analyse and monitor health trends and health needs. With the ability to provide large sample groups, the PHRN will assist a greater whole-of-population approach to health and health related research.
The PHRN is developing and testing leading-edge technology to ensure the safe and secure linking of data collections whilst working to protect peoples' identity and privacy. The PHRN is also developing mechanisms for the secure exchange of linkable data between those who hold the data collections (Data Custodians) and the researchers who receive approval to analyse the linked data. The PHRN data linkage units do not conduct their own health or health related research.
The University of Western Australia is the Lead Agent for the PHRN. It has overall responsibility for the PHRN in accordance with the reporting and accountability requirements outlined in Funding Agreements. The PHRN is governed by a Board which provides oversight and strategic direction. The PHRN Board receives advice from the PHRN Participant Council which includes members from each of the PHRN Project Participants.
The PHRN commenced operations in 2009 with a $20 million allocation of funds from the Australian Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program. This initial funding covered a four year period from 2008-09 to 2011-12 inclusive. Subsequently, the PHRN received further funding from the Australian Government’s national research infrastructure programs, with cash contributions totalling over $46 million in the periods 2008-09 to 2016-17 inclusive.