2019 — a year full of promise for Public Health Intelligence - Public Health Dorset


2019 — a year full of promise for Public Health Intelligence

A year full of promise for Public Health Intelligence.

Friday, Week 1.

First week back at work. Week 1 of 2019 is almost done.

This new year of ours holds a lot of promise for Public Health Intelligence, and our ability to add value to the important work that colleagues are delivering across the Integrated Care System.

Over the last 3 years we have transformed the way we work and how we work with colleagues.

At the beginning of 2016 our time and effort was still almost entirely consumed by ‘data’. Numbers. Facts. Figures. Sometimes we biffed out interesting, at least to us, reports, but about 90% of our time went into responding to colleague requests for data. Data was king. Data needs cleaning, formatting, storing, processing, analysing. It is never ending.

Our analysts work hard, but they were frustrated back in 2016. The work was very ‘bits and pieces’, and worse yet although they did their best, they knew that in many cases the data handed over, and sometimes turned into information, would make little or no difference to the decision-making process. Mostly our colleagues who were asking for data, didn’t know what they were going to do with it, except maybe drag it along to a meeting to wave at other colleagues. They didn’t often have a good question that they were asking, not that we could find anyway. We do try.


How were we going to add value to important work going on to reform local government, develop our Sustainable Transformation Partnership and improve the health and wellbeing of our population?

It looked impossible to ever get on top of all the work.

So we decided to take back control of our work programme (i.e our time) and focus our efforts into fewer bigger pieces of work that we thought would add more value to the work of colleagues.

Step 1: Just say ‘no’. We just said ‘no’ to data requests from colleagues (this was our single most difficult behaviour change — our analysts love to help colleagues! They didn’t want to say no. I was mean for making them say no.), unless they really knew what they were going to do with the data — and had a decent set of questions they were trying to answer. We got away with this 95% of the time and it saved us a massive amount of time.

Step 2: Dethroning our data. The king was dead. We stopped being spreadsheet warriors. We developed a modern and effective business intelligence infrastructure. Nothing fancy — SQL Server data warehouse with a Tableau front end. It works. We now have a single point of truth for all data we use. One truth. We automate many routine data management tasks. We saved more time.

Step 3: Capability Development. We started spending our newly found ‘time’. We did a client centred consulting training course — and we began to change the way worked with colleagues. We stopped owning other people’s problems — we consulted with them where ever we could, helped them to help themselves. Yes, this saved even more time.

We’ve initiated more project management. We took some decent training. We learned to use project management tools more effectively. We deliver what we say we are going to deliver. Everyone knows how we are trying to make a difference as an intelligence team: (1) improving shared-understanding, (2) ensuring reliable data and robust evidence and (3) delivering compelling narrative. Every one of us has an annual logic model that ties their effort to their activities to their deliverables to the difference we are trying to make as a team. Every analyst is a thought leader in some area. This is massive.

We invested in analyst training. Everyone can access the data warehouse, everyone is capable of develop SQL scripts, everyone can use Tableau and we invested in sharing these skills with colleagues throughout the system. The evidence base is everyone’s business. We also invested in a professional data manager. Best stand-alone hire for improving team efficiency. Ever.

But there was more, we developed our narrative and story-telling with data skills to improve engagement. We developed our Health Economics skills so that we speak the language of economics and finance. We developed Programme Evaluation capability, so that we could help colleagues deliver credible evaluations of their programmes that are useful in future decision-making.

We’ve taken tentative steps towards adopting a ‘futuring’ based approach to everything we do. Analytically, we do more forecasting now, but the real change is in how we look at challenges. We can statistically forecast almost anything, but understanding the future context of those forecasts may be even more valuable than our data trends. I think that this is so central to what we try to do in Public Health Intelligence, that I’ve named these blogs our ‘healthy places futures blog’. The future is more relevant to decision-making that the past. More on this later.

However, I believe that our single most impactful investment over the last three years is in developing our Systems Thinking approach to the health of our population. I will talk about this at length in future blogs. This is big. It is a game changing, paradigm shifting, transformation of epic proportions. Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. Integrated Care System. Everything. We timed this one right.


So in 2019, we are a transformed lot, energised, practiced and looking forward to year of helping colleagues effect the change that they come to work to make happen! We were well supported by senior colleagues and that was very encouraging.

Extremely proud of the way we been able to change the nature of our work and the way we interact with colleagues. It was a choice. A good one. Public Health Dorset and indeed the entire Integrated Care System is very lucky to have such a transformational group of analysts. The best bunch I’ve ever worked with — look out 2019!

This futures blog

This blog is about how we create ‘healthy places’ and what our possible ‘futures’ could be given current trends and momentum within society, the economic and political systems, and the environment. I use the plural ‘futures’ intentionally, because our future is not pre-determined (I hope), we can and should work towards the future we want. This blog aims to generate discussion (maybe even some debate) around ‘Healthy places futures’ in the hope that if we all put our minds to it, a collective vision may emerge, which would inform any strategy we might put in place to get us to our preferred future. We’ll be leaning on heavily on futuring tools found on our Shaping Tomorrow hosted website: phd.shapingtomorrow.com.

The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed (William Gibson 1993).

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