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Using administrative data to evaluate national policy impacts on child and maternal health: a research framework from the Maternal and Child Health Network (MatCHNet)
  1. Emma Stewart1,
  2. Sinead Brophy2,
  3. Richard Cookson3,
  4. Ruth Gilbert4,
  5. Joanne Given5,
  6. Pia Hardelid4,
  7. Katie Harron4,
  8. Alastair Leyland1,
  9. Anna Pearce1,
  10. Rachael Wood6,7,
  11. Ruth Dundas1
  1. 1 MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2 School of Medicine, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
  3. 3 Centre for Health Economics, University of York, York, UK
  4. 4 Population, Policy and Practice Department, UCL Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, London, UK
  5. 5 School of Nursing and Paramedic Science, Ulster University, Coleraine, UK
  6. 6 Public Health Scotland Glasgow Office, Glasgow, UK
  7. 7 Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Emma Stewart, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK; Emma.Stewart{at}


Reducing health inequalities by addressing the social circumstances in which children are conceived and raised is a societal priority. Early interventions are key to improving outcomes in childhood and long-term into adulthood. Across the UK nations, there is strong political commitment to invest in the early years. National policy interventions aim to tackle health inequalities and deliver health equity for all children. Evidence to determine the effectiveness of socio-structural policies on child health outcomes is especially pressing given the current social and economic challenges facing policy-makers and families with children. As an alternative to clinical trials or evaluating local interventions, we propose a research framework that supports evaluating the impact of whole country policies on child health outcomes. Three key research challenges must be addressed to enable such evaluations and improve policy for child health: (1) policy prioritisation, (2) identification of comparable data and (3) application of robust methods.

  • Health inequalities

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  • Twitter @SineadBr, @RichardACookson, @Klharron, @AlastairLeyland, @akaspan1981, @RDundas0

  • Collaborators The Maternal and Child Network (MatCHNet) was established to harness cross-country administrative data to evaluate national policy impacts on maternal, infant and child health, and health inequalities across the four UK nations. This work was funded as part of the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP), a multifunder initiative that supports novel research into the primary prevention of non-communicable diseases to improve population health and health inequalities.MatCHNet Collaborators: Professor Ruth Dundas, University of Glasgow, Professor Sinead Brophy, Swansea University, Professor Richard Cookson, University of York, Professor Ruth Gilbert, University College London, Dr Joanne Given, Ulster University, Dr Pia Hardelid, University College London, Professor Katie Harron, University College London, Professor Alastair H Leyland, University of Glasgow, Dr Anna Pearce, University of Glasgow, Dr Emma Stewart, University of Glasgow, Dr Rachael Wood, Public Health Scotland.

  • Contributors ES and RD drafted the text. All collaborators were involved in the development of MatCHNet’s research framework, commented on drafts and agreed the final version of this article.

  • Funding This work was supported by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (award reference MR/S037608/1), which is funded by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Economic and Social Research Council, Health and Social Care Research and Development Division (Welsh Government), Medical Research Council, National Institute for Health Research, Natural Environment Research Council, Public Health Agency (Northern Ireland), The Health Foundation and Wellcome. RD, AL, AP and ES are funded by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_00022/2) and the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office (SPHSU17). AP also receives support from the Wellcome Trust (205412/Z/16/Z). This research was supported in part by the NIHR Great Ormond Street Hospital Biomedical Research Centre and the Health Data Research UK (grant No. LOND1), which is funded by the UK Medical Research Council and eight other funders. KH is funded by the NIHR (17/99/19).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.