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How can population health management help with the government’s new women's health priorities for 2024?

23 January 2024

Earlier this week, Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, revealed the government’s new women’s health priorities for 2024.

Speaking at the Women’s Health Summit in central London to mark the second year of the Women’s Health Strategy, Victoria Atkins named problem periods, and support for domestic and sexual abuse victims among the priorities, along with improving maternity care and support for mothers who suffer birth trauma.

Through the first ever National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) ‘Challenge’, backed by £50 million, researchers, policymakers, and women will be also tasked with finding new ways to tackle maternity disparities. 

How can population health management help?

In the government’s 2021 policy paper, ‘Our Vision for the Women’s Health Strategy for England’, data was highlighted as being a key tool to reducing inequalities for women:

“We need to have the right data and make better use of the data we collect in order to tackle sex-based data gaps, with the aim of improving women’s health outcomes, reducing disparities and supporting a life course approach for women’s health.”

This sentiment was echoed in NHS England’s Three-Year Delivery Plan for Maternity and Neonatal Services, published in March 2023:

“Maternity and neonatal teams need to be supported by clear standards and structures. This includes having high quality data to inform the decisions of clinicians and leaders, and having digital tools that enable information to flow.”

Clearly, richer data intelligence is going to be central to tackling inequalities – and that is where a sophisticated population health management solution can make all the difference. Using shared care and personal health record data, groups can be filtered based on criteria such as age, gender, vaccination status, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, and long-term conditions, among other things. This enables health and care providers to identify the women most in need of support and implement appropriate actions to help. The impact of the interventions can also be measured over time, allowing for continuous learning and improvement.

Cheshire & Merseyside uses pregnancy dashboard to address equality in maternity care.

The Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Health and Care Partnership is using an innovative population health data dashboard to improve healthcare outcomes and health equity for pregnant women.

The dashboard allows Cheshire & Merseyside to identify pregnant women that are most in need of support. Information flowing into the dashboard from health and care organisations, such as NHS Trusts, includes vaccination status, stage of gestation, age, ethnicity, any long-term conditions, and socioeconomic factors.

Since the pregnancy dashboard was developed, Covid-19 vaccination rates amongst pregnant women in Cheshire and Merseyside have increased by more than 25%. The tool is now being used to tackle winter pressures by increasing flu vaccinations amongst pregnant women. Insights and support are also being used to reduce smoking during pregnancy, increase cervical screening rates, and identify and support those with mental health challenges.

The dashboard was originally spearheaded by the Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s Health and Maternity Partnership, which has now been incorporated into the Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board. Once the impact of Covid on pregnant women became clear, including the transfer of Covid through the umbilical cord, the partnership quickly swung into action. They worked with CIPHA and Graphnet to develop the dashboard.

Data-driven insights and interaction with local communities were used to take the vaccination to pregnant women. That included a roving vaccination bus, which attracted hundreds of people. They also engaged directly with many of their citizens, which led to discussions about other factors that were encroaching on their lives, including poverty, debt, and domestic violence. The partnership then signposted them to other organisations to help and support.

Catherine McClennan, Director, Cheshire and Merseyside Women’s Health and Maternity Programme, explained:

“Pregnancy is one period in a person’s life where healthcare inequalities are emphasised. While it was incredibly challenging, the pandemic did enable us to find solutions quite quickly in terms of how we address some of those health inequalities.”

Since the pandemic, the data has enabled Cheshire and Merseyside to identify other health factors and work that needs to be done. One of the resulting initiatives has been broadening the remit of the roving bus, which now offers several women’s services. It has also helped cut down on duplication of records from both primary care and out in the community; and reduced the amount of workforce time and effort that was previously spent manually looking at records.

“We’re continuing to use the pregnancy dashboard,” said Catherine. “We are developing it, we keep looking at it and in terms of intelligence, it has helped us to showcase the key work that needs to be done and what we need to prioritize in terms of population health.

“It’s all about making those numbers and those digital platforms bring to life what is actually happening in people's lives and in their communities,” she adds. “Having worked with several families, including many that struggled with pregnancies and birth during the pandemic, it feels good to be moving forward in a positive direction, and putting initiatives in place to make quality maternal and neonatal care easily accessible to all.”

The full Cheshire & Merseyside case study

To find out more about how Graphnet Health population health management tools can support maternity and other healthcare needs, contact us to discuss.