About The Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH)


The Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH) in the Faculty of Medicine was established in November 2014. CBDRH conducts research using large-scale electronic data that spans the biomedical, clinical, health services and public health domains.


To improve the health of the population through research using large-scale electronic data that integrates information about biology, clinical care, health services and the social and physical environments.


The power of “big data” is harnessed to transform the prevention and management of disease, and the delivery of health services.

Key Objectives

Establish collaborations across the biomedical, clinical, health services and public health domains to tackle issues that can be informed through research using large-scale electronic data.
Undertake innovative, high-quality, multi-disciplinary research using large-scale electronic data.
Work in partnership with clinicians, health services, policymakers and industry to facilitate the rapid translation of research findings into health improvements.
Build multi-disciplinary capacity in research using large-scale electronic data through delivering formal training, and promoting informal learning, mentorship and exchange with other centres of expertise.
Promote public, clinical and policy awareness of the health and societal benefits of research using large-scale electronic data.

Key research projects

Mapping the outcomes of calls to ‘healthdirect Australia’

Healthdirect Australia provides a telephone-based health care triage and advice service known as healthdirect Australia. This project uses linked operational call data with routinely collected data (including emergency department data, hospital admissions and mortality data) and the 45 and Up Study baseline questionnaire. The project will examine a) to what extent is healthdirect Australia advice being followed, b) patient outcomes following calls to healthdirect Australia, c) the characteristics of patients who are less likely to follow advice and/or have unfavourable outcomes and d) explore how features of healthdirect Australia service provision relate to a) and c) above. The project will explore how frequently patients who call healthdirect Australia are triaged using mental health-related guidelines, and how many patients subsequently present to emergency departments for mental health problems.


APHID (Assessing Preventable Hospitalisation InDicators

The APHID study (Assessing Preventable Hospitalisation InDicators) is an investigation into the validity and utility of Potentially Preventable Hospitalisations (also known as hospitalisations for Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions). Rates of potentially preventable hospitalisations (PPH) are regarded as an indicator of the quality and affordability of primary and community care, and are increasingly being used to track the progress of health reform in Australia and internationally. The project will investigate how patient co-morbidities including psychological distress contribute to the burden of preventable hospitalisation.


Seeding Success

Promoting positive early childhood development is fundamental to improving life opportunities and outcomes for Aboriginal Australians. However, national data show that a significant proportion of Aboriginal children have markers of developmental vulnerability at school entry and this tracks through to poor literacy and numeracy outcomes across all schooling years. We currently lack information about the key drivers of positive early childhood development in Aboriginal children, and the features of local communities and early childhood service provision that make a tangible difference.

Seeding Success aims to address this information gap using linked routinely collected health, welfare and education data, from birth to school age, for all children who started school in NSW in 2009 and 2012. It will determine which social, perinatal and early childhood health factors, including maternal mental health, predict positive early childhood development from birth to school age in Aboriginal children, and test the impact of two early childhood services (Aboriginal Maternal and Infant Health Services and the Brighter Futures program) in promoting positive early childhood development in Aboriginal children.


Champion for the Mindgardens project

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 4.24.08 pmLouisa Jorm is the Foundation Director of the Centre for Big Data Research in Health at UNSW. She is an Australian leader in epidemiological research using linked administrative health data, including hospital inpatient, mortality and Medicare data. Her areas of expertise include epidemiologic methods, data linkage, use, analysis and interpretation of large administrative data sets, population health surveillance, health survey methods, public health information systems, and facilitating the policy and practice uptake of research.

She has played a leading role in the establishment of major infrastructure and capacity for health big data research in Australia, including the NSW/ACT Centre for Health Record Linkage (CHeReL), the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study and the NSW Biostatistical Officer Training Program. She led the development of the Secure Unified Research Environment (SURE), a new facility that benefits researchers nationally by providing a secure remote access analysis environment for linked health data. In the last 5 years Professor Jorm has published more than 60 scientific papers, been awarded almost $10M in research funding and given invited plenary presentations at 5 international and 11 national conferences. She represents the NHMRC on the international Public Health Research Data Forum convened by the Wellcome Trust, and chairs the NHMRC’s Data Reference Group. She is a member (appointed by the Commonwealth Minister for Health) of two NHMRC Principal Committees: Research Committee and Prevention and Community Health Committee, and a member of NHMRC’s Women in Health Science and Reproducible Research Working Groups. She was a Member of the Health Expert Working Group, Roadmap for Australian Research Infrastructure (2011 and 2008) and was an invited participant in the inaugural meeting of the Australia-US Science and Technology Joint Commission Steering Committee in Washington DC in February 2011.