New Zealand urged to build health data analytics skills

Nation faces critical skills shortage, Massey University says

According to Massey University, New Zealand faces a critical shortage of skilled practitioners able to analyse, interpret and disseminate data needed to develop better health services.

The associate director of Massey University’s Centre for Public Health Research, professor of epidemiology Barry Borman, says New Zealand is competing for these skills with the rest of the world, and needs to do more to develop people with the requisite skills.

“Internationally there is clear demand for people with specific health analytics skills, and this is predicted to grow. There is a huge amount of data being collected in the health sector, but a gap remains in the amount of qualified people to analyse, interpret and translate these into meaningful information that can be used to improve our health services and outcomes,” Borman said.

According to Borman, there is a common belief that faster computers and better software will result in more information. “But humans are best at analysing, interpreting, translating and disseminating information. Humans make data useful,” he said.

“The New Zealand health sector is data rich and information poor. We continue to amass data at an increasing rate, but we are not turning this into information. The investment is in software and hardware, not human ware.

“Data is at the bottom of the hierarchy, and without analysis it is not useful information or knowledge. The health system requires information, and knowledge, to make evidence-based decisions and policies.”

His comments were made to promote Massey University’s new Master of Analytics (Health) programme, claimed to be the first New Zealand programme designed to address this skill shortage.

According to the university it gives graduates the tools, skills and techniques to turn health data into robust information to guide policy development and decision making across the health sector.”

The university says the programme has been designed in collaboration with major organisations in the health sector, including the Ministry of Health, Statistics New Zealand and district health boards. It will be available at Massey’s Wellington campus in semester two 2017.


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