A population maternal and child health research database for research and policy evaluation in Western Australia
Stanley FJ., Read AW., Kurinczuk JJ., Croft ML., Bower C.
We describe a population database for maternal and child health monitoring, research and policy evaluation based on record linkage of both vital statistical records and special collections. Midwives' notifications of births, statutory birth registrations and death certificates have been linked on an annual basis for the total birth population of Western Australia (25 000 births per year) since 1980. Registers of birth defects and cerebral palsy have also been linked into the database and, more recently, the linkages have been extended to hospitalizations throughout childhood and adolescence, and to pooled census data to enable mapping of maternal and child health by certain geographic indices. A cluster of activities has developed around the database, including surveillance, case-control and cohort studies, surveys of additional exposures, and linkage of offspring to an individual mother to create maternal sibships. The long-term plan includes intergenerational analyses. Neonatal research is facilitated by housing the database in a paediatric research institute with good epidemiological, biostatistical and computing support.