Overview

Purpose

The Population Health Research Network (PHRN) has been established to build a nationwide data linkage infrastructure capable of securely and safely managing health information from around Australia.

Data linkage - the method by which information about people, places and events from different data collections is brought together - has been successfully operating in parts of Australia since the mid -1990s. With the establishment of the PHRN, data linkage units and managing nodes now operate across every state and territory in Australia, allowing population health research to be carried out more thoroughly and more effectively.

The PHRN is a national network comprising a Program Office located in Perth, Western Australia, a Centre for Data Linkage located at Curtin University in Western Australia, a remote Access Laboratory located at the Sax Institute in New South Wales and a network of Project Participants and Data Linkage Units located in each Australian state/territory.

The work of the PHRN will greatly improve the way linkable health and health related data is made available to approved researchers. This innovative and unique collaboration, builds on the success of well established data linkage units in WA and NSW/ACT. It will greatly enhance Australia's ability to research, analyse and monitor health trends and health needs. With the ability to provide large sample groups, the PHRN will assist a greater whole-of-population approach to health and health related research.

The PHRN is developing and testing leading-edge technology to ensure the safe and secure linking of data collections whilst working to protect peoples' identity and privacy. The PHRN is also developing mechanisms for the secure exchange of linkable data between those who hold the data collections (Data Custodians) and the researchers who receive approval to analyse the linked data. The PHRN data linkage units do not conduct their own health or health related research.

Governance

The PHRN is governed by the PHRN Board. The Board will provide oversight and strategic direction for the PHRN. The PHRN Board is chaired by leading South Australian health specialist Professor Brendon Kearney.

Funding

The PHRN commenced operations in 2009 with a $20 million allocation of funds from the Australian Government's National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) program. This initial funding covered a four year period from 2008-09 to 2011-12 inclusive. Subsequently, the PHRN received further funding from the Australian Government’s national research infrastructure programs, with cash contributions totalling over $46 million in the periods 2008-09 to 2016-17 inclusive. The amount received from each of these programs is shown in the table below.

Australian Government Program PHRN Amount (GST exclusive)
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) $20,000,000
Education Investment Fund Super Science Initiative (EIF-SSI) $10,000,000
Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (CRIS) $3,085,000
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy 2013 (NCRIS 2013) $4,915,000
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy 2015 (NCRIS 2015) $4,269,000
National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy 2016 (NCRIS 2016) $4,355,000
Total Australian Government Cash Contribution $46,624,000

In addition to the Australian Government cash contribution, government, research institutes and universities have provided significant cash and in kind contributions.  

In December 2015, the Australian Government announced that it will allocate $1.5 billion over 10 years from 2017-18 for the NCRIS program. This funding is of major significance as it will provide opportunities for long-term investment in Australia’s national research infrastructure.