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Milbank Q. 2010 Sep;88(3):382-403. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-0009.2010.00604.x.

Enhancing policymakers' understanding of disparities: relevant data from an information-rich environment.

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Manitoba Centre for Health Policy, Department of Community Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.



Information-rich environments, with access and funding provided by government, make it possible to organize longitudinal administrative data to support analyses of policy-relevant questions. This paper describes insights into children's well-being and social equity obtained from data available in Manitoba, Canada, and highlights findings that have engaged policymakers.


Analyses draw on Manitoba-linked data providing information over time (going back to 1970 in some files) and across space (with residential location documented every six months) for each provincial resident. Routinely collected data from the Ministries of Health, Education, and Family Services and Consumer Affairs have been integrated with a population registry.


Identifying risk factors and presenting outcomes by social groups and by local communities capture the attention of policymakers. Linking an individual's area of residence to census and health data has led to developing measures of population health status and socioeconomic status. These measures focus on whether delivery patterns track health and educational needs, and a population registry makes it possible to describe who is (and is not) served by each program.


The nature of health and social research has been changed by the development of information-rich environments. Many findings in Manitoba could not be replicated without a population registry. Engaging decision makers through effective presentations can ensure continuing support for diverse efforts based on these environments, and this article suggests ways of better communicating with policymakers.

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