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Research - Population health, health services and health policy

Population health and health services

Small Area Health Reseach Unit (SAHRU)

SAHRU ImageThe Small Area Health Research Unit specialises in the spatial analysis of population health/disease data and service provision.  Additionally, the Unit offers advanced biostatistical modelling of large complex health & health services data.  The Unit was established in 1997 on foot of seed funding from the Health Research Board.  The founding Director is Professor Alan Kelly. A spin-off campus company was established in 2001.

Over the years, the Unit has always worked closely with Public Health specialists in the HSE and has addressed a range of challenging problems  including:

  1. Travel time calculations used for the selection of sites for major service reviews - oncology services (The “Hollywood” Report), the national paediatric hospital, retention of the Dublin maternity hospitals.
  2. Projected impact on travel times of the “Hanly Report” recommendations on national A&E reconfiguration.
  3. Development of cluster detection software used in all European national and regional registries for congenital anomalies and by the EU-funded EUROCAT central registry (
  4. As part of a formal assessment into possible impact of pollution source on morbidity and mortality of the local population (e.g. the Askeaton study)
  5. Assessment of need for out-of-hours A&E provision in small rural hospitals.

SAHRU is responsible for the national census-based small-area deprivation index used by the HSE, government departments, commercial consulting bodies, academic researchers and community groups in resource allocation and fund raising as well as by members of the public interested in their local environment.  It is used in the training of public health nurses.  

Examples of usage:
The index is used by the HSE to reweight catchment populations in the capitation funding for Community Psychiatric services to adjust for higher levels of local deprivation.
It is also used in deciding on the locations of new Primary Care Centres and, The National Cancer Registry employs the index in mapping small area risk differences for many cancers.

In addition to the deprivation index, the Unit has now introduced a national small-area social fragmentation index.  Full details of these are available online where the indices may be downloaded for free and selected maps may be seen here.

Health Policy

AHPI ImageAdelaide Health Policy Initiative (AHPI)

The Adelaide Health Policy Initiative (AHPI) has been instrumental in advocating for a fair and equitable health system through the development of a universal single-tier health service, which guarantees access to medical care based on need, not income. The AHPI is recognised as developing evidence-based policies that will help to implement progressive change within the Irish healthcare system.

The AHPI recognises that health policy must be underpinned by good quality evidence based research.  All research findings have a publication strategy, which includes submissions to international peer-reviewed journals and the publication of reports on health policy direction.

Dr Catherine Darker, Adelaide Assistant Professor in Health Services Research heads up the AHPI, supported by The Adelaide Hospital Society.  It is planned to recruit an Adelaide Research Fellow in Epidemiology, who will be in post by early 2014.

The following policy reports are available to download from The Adelaide Hospital Society Website

Effective Foundations for the Financing and Organisation of SHI in Ireland - 27 April 2010
Universal Health Insurance: The Way Forward for Irish Healthcare - 26 April 2010
Equity in Irish Healthcare: A View from the Irish Health Care System - 3 April 2009
Social Health Insurance: Further Options for Ireland - 16 April 2008
Erosion of Citizenship in the Irish Republic: the case of healthcare reform - 4 March 2008
Social Health Insurance: Options for Ireland Report - 23 November 2006


Last updated 23 November 2016 Mary O'Neill (Email).