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In the current era of big data and small research budgets, new strategies are needed for more cost-effective leveraging of big data to enhance our nation's health. One strategy is to promote transnational partnerships to tap into the rich, extensive databases available in other countries, particularly in Europe. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has increasingly recognised that new collaborations that bring together multiple data sources will play a critical role in advancing our knowledge of disease causation, improving patient care, and promoting healthier communities. However, given cuts in research funding and fierce competition for US grants, some question whether US dollars should be diverted to fund ‘foreign’ studies. In this commentary, we argue that transnational research partnerships offer significant advantages for enhancing the health of the US population as well as the broader global community.
In the USA, the collection of population-wide health data has been hampered by the inherent difficulties in linking patients across many different healthcare delivery systems. As a result, the availability of big data for health research has been limited mainly to a few large organisations such as Kaiser Permanente, Group Health, the Mayo Clinic and VA hospitals. The data collected by such organisations are rich resources but have significant limitations. They include only a selected patient population, which is often a poor representative of the broader population in terms of socioeconomic, ethnic or health factors, thus limiting generalisability. Their patient populations also fluctuate over time …
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