HealthWise Wales

Inside HealthWise Wales: Why this Research Study Matters so Much

Launched officially in February 2016, HealthWise Wales is a unique project, funded by Health and Care Research Wales, designed to improve the health of the nation. All citizens in Wales are invited to sign up online and answer some simple, yet fundamental questions about health and lifestyle, so they can choose to contribute to and participate in initiatives to improve the quality of the nation’s health. The Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University is providing both academic and Information Systems expertise to the project. Here two of the Centre’s researchers, Julia Townson and Dr Fiona Lugg, discuss what that is like to be involved in this Welsh government flagship project.

Dr Fiona Lugg

Dr Fiona Lugg

Dr Fiona Lugg

Research associate, South East Wales Trials Unit, Centre for Trials Research

What is your involvement with Healthwise Wales?

I am one of the project team members for HealthWise Wales.  I led on a mini-project that involved qualitative interviews with members of public in order to inform the communication strategy for the project.  I am also the chair of the data quality group.

How you have been able to contribute?

I conducted five focus groups in Cardiff, Merthyr and Haverfordwest and asked individuals their thoughts about the project, reasons why they would or would not consider signing up, how would they encourage their family and friends to sign up and how to communicate the methodology.  All of their ideas contributed to a report that informed the communication strategy.

In the weekly data quality meetings, we reviewed all the feedback from participants on a weekly basis to identify improvements to the website / study in general ahead of the launch in February. We also review the quality of the data collected and identify ways to improve this.

I have also been involved in developing the guidance and application process for researchers, in the future, to access HealthWise Wales data.  Finally, I am supporting the ‘recruitment and retention strategies’ work package leads in their work.

What has the response been like so far?

Feedback has been very positive.  During the focus groups we identified reasons why individuals may not consider signing up and we are using this information to develop strategies to address these reasons.  On the whole though, everyone we spoke to was supportive of the idea and were interested to see the project succeed.

Why is the project so important?

Involving the public in research is so important if we want to make a difference to the Welsh population.  The public need to see that what they do to contribute, by participating in research, really can make a difference.  This project will be a fantastic way to demonstrate and communicate this.

What does it mean to you personally?

It’s great to be involved in such a huge project.  I’m excited to see what we (as researchers and participants) can improve and advance in both the health and social care over the next few years.

Julia Townson

Dr Julia Townson

Trial manager, South East Wales Trials Unit, Centre for Trials Research

What is your involvement with Healthwise Wales?

I am one of the leads for the work package ‘recruiment and retention strategies’ and also the work package titled “research”. I have a particular interest in public engagement and I am working on a concept which involves members of the public participating as ‘champions’ for the project.

How you have been able to contribute?

I have established and met with two groups of people, mainly from the Involving People Network, one in North and one in South Wales, to discuss how this concept might work with the general public. I have also been establishing links with a large employer in Wales, to inform their work force of the project.

What the response has been like so far?

The response so far has been very positive. Members think it is a good idea as long as there is an element of support and training for the people volunteering.

Why is the project so important?

The project is really important, as it has the potential to provide the answers for many health outcomes that we currently do not have answers to, or potentially don’t even know are questions. It is also a unique opportunity for the people of Wales to take ownership of this project and lead in the design and delivery of research projects in the future.

What does the project mean to you personally?

The thought that I could be providing a piece of information that will help the health of future generations is an amazingly exciting prospect. The enthusiasm for the project from the people that I have already met has also been an inspiration.

To find out more or to take part in HealthWise Wales, visit the HealthWise Wales website.