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Arch Public Health. 2014 Jul 15;72(1):24. doi: 10.1186/2049-3258-72-24. eCollection 2014.

A review of the use of health examination data from the Health Survey for England in government policy development and implementation.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, UCL (University College London), London, UK.



Information is needed at all stages of the policy making process. The Health Survey for England (HSE) is an annual cross-sectional health examination survey of the non-institutionalised general population in England. It was originally set up to inform national policy making and monitoring by the Department of Health. This paper examines how the nurse collected physical and biological measurement data from the HSE have been essential or useful for identification of a health issue amenable to policy intervention; initiation, development or implementation of a strategy; choice and monitoring of targets; or assessment and evaluation of policies.


Specific examples of use of HSE data were identified through interviews with senior members of staff at the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Information Centre. Policy documents mentioned by interviewees were retrieved for review, and reference lists of associated policy documents checked. Systematic searches of Chief Medical Officer Reports, Government 'Command Papers', and clinical guidance documents were also undertaken.


HSE examination data have been used at all stages of the policy making process. Data have been used to identify an issue amenable to policy-intervention (e.g. quantifying prevalence of undiagnosed chronic kidney disease), in strategy development (in models to inform chronic respiratory disease policy), for target setting and monitoring (the 1992 blood pressure target) and in evaluation of health policy (the effect of the smoking ban on second hand smoke exposure).


A health examination survey is a useful part of a national health information system.


Evidence; Health examination survey; Policy; Surveillance

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