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One of the proposals in the British Our Healthier Nation public health strategy is that “ . . . in order to strengthen the availability and use of information about health at the local level we will ensure that there is a Public Health Observatory in each . . . region of the country.” These observatories will be closely linked with universities to help bring an academic rigour to their work. Their tasks will be to support local bodies by:
Monitoring health and disease trends and highlighting areas for action.
Identifying gaps in health information.
Advising on methods for health and health inequality impact assessments.
Drawing together information from different sources in new ways to improve health.
Carrying out projects to highlight particular health issues.
Evaluating progress by local agencies on improving health and cutting inequality.
Looking ahead to give early warning of future public health problems.1
The need for such a different approach for the provision of public health intelligence had been identified in the North West of England in 1990 by the establishment of the Liverpool Public Health Observatory within the University of Liverpool Medical School by the Mersey Regional Health Authority.2 As caricatured at the time, the problem of conventional funding of research and intelligence from the universities was seen as being their …