Research fellowship uses big data to explore impacts of COVID-19 on UK population

A researcher from the University of Plymouth has been awarded a year-long fellowship to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on population health in the UK.

Dr Yinghui Wei, Associate Professor of Statistics, will work alongside the COVID-19 Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study programme to assess some of the ongoing health questions linked to the global pandemic.

In particular, she plans to use data from national electronic health records and longitudinal cohort studies to identify important health-related questions, including the risk factors associated with Long COVID and the effects of COVID-19 infection on other health outcomes.

The fellowship is being funded by the Medical Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The overall aim of this fellowship is to develop well-designed statistical analyses which make the best use of data from multiple sources in order to understand the impacts and management of the COVID-19 pandemic to improve public health.

Dr Wei has considerable experience in the development and application of statistical methods to enhance our understanding of health conditions and their effects. She is also currently supervising a project using big data to develop and validate clinical prediction models for survival outcomes in patients who have undergone kidney transplants. She said:

“This new fellowship will allow me to both apply and advance my expertise in big data, statistical modelling and epidemiology. By making the best use of data to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on population health in the UK, it will also enable me to develop statistical analyses that can be used to address important research questions which will have an impact on public health.”

The UKRI-funded Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study aims to understand the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by uniting established population cohorts and national anonymised electronic health records to inform policy.

Dr Wei will use data from anonymised national electronic health records and longitudinal cohort studies to develop a prediction model that will classify patients into groups with and without Long COVID.

She will also examine how COVID-19 infection impacts on other health outcomes, and quantify how those impacts change with time. Dr Wei added:

“The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasised the importance of using data to understand the spread of the virus, predict future trends of the pandemic in space and time, forecast challenges for healthcare delivery and inform government management policies. The availability of national electronic health records and longitudinal cohort studies provides unique opportunities for using big data to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on health, society and economics.”

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