Health and Care Research Wales recently announced £6.5m investment in new research projects across Wales, as part of their 2020-21 funding, designed to ‘fund high-quality research that addresses different research needs across Wales’.
Many of these new research projects will use the SAIL Databank Trusted Research Environment (TRE) to address their research questions. Containing billions of anonymised, individual-level, population-scale records, SAIL Databank is a world leading resource that exists to improve lives by providing researchers with secure, linkable and anonymised data that can be accessed and analysed from anywhere in the world.
SAIL Databank is entrusted with a wealth of population-scaled data, some of which reaches back a quarter of a century or more. It contains 80% coverage of general practice data and 100% secondary care data for the population of Wales, including a wealth of demographic, administrative, health and social care data.
We asked a lead researcher to tell us more about one of the successfully funded projects…
Why is this research needed?
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the world. In Wales, skin cancer rates have risen by 63% since 2005 and dermatologists now spend 50% of their time treating skin cancer. However, there is hope: 86% of melanoma, a type of skin cancer is preventable through less exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet radiation (UVR).
Studies show that children who are badly sunburned are more likely to develop melanoma skin cancer when they are older. With the Welsh Government recommending that people do more to prevent future health problems, preventing skin cancer is more important than ever. Children spend almost half their time at school playing and learning outdoors, and one way to prevent skin cancer is to teach children at school how to protect themselves from UVR.
While teaching sun safety in primary schools is now mandatory in England, in Wales the decision is currently left up to individual schools.
What do you hope to learn?
We want to understand how primary schools in Wales are responding to the growing problem of skin cancer. We will explore whether schools have a sun protection policy in place, the factors which may influence this, what these policies look like and whether they have an impact on the awareness, knowledge and behaviour of children, staff and school managers.
How will SAIL Databank help?
We will explore electronic health record (EHR) data within SAIL Databank to understand what data is currently available regarding incidence of serious sunburn in children and what this data can tell us about the impact of sun safety policies in Welsh primary schools.
We will use study findings to co-produce guidance for schools on implementing sun safety policies.
Who is involved in research?
Sunproofed is a collaborative study with team members based in Swansea Trials Unit at Swansea University Medical School, SAIL Databank analysts and data scientists, and Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. The study benefits from strong public involvement with two teacher and two parent representatives.
Potential benefits and impact?
Increasing rates of skin cancer in Wales are having a detrimental impact on NHS resources. A clear assessment of the current situation in Wales with respect to sun safety policies in schools and co-producing evidenced-based guidance on best methods for implementation will enable Wales to move towards prevention, keeping people healthier for longer.
Our sincere thanks to Dr Peconi for contributing to our blog. We wish her every success in her important research endeavours.
SAIL Databank has been core-funded by a Health and Care Research Wales infrastructure grant since 2007 with additional support from the Economic and Social Research Council. SAIL Databank is accredited to the highest international standard, ISO 27001, and the UK Statistics Authority under the Digital Economy Act 2017.