SeRP-powered HealthWise Wales platform generates new mixed methods study that includes public experiences of COVID-19

The UK COVID-19 Public Experiences (COPE) study aimed to identify determinants of health behaviour during the pandemic. Public perceptions of pandemic threats and government policies can influence adherence to containment, delay, mitigation policies (such as physical distancing), hygienic practices, use of physical barriers, uptake of testing, contact tracing, and vaccination programs.
The research was led by Dr Rhiannon Phillips of Cardiff Metropolitan University and supported by Cardiff University and Swansea University. Public and Patient Involvement (PPI) support was provided by the Centre for Trials Research and PRIME Centre Wales PPI panels.
Participants were recruited via the HealthWise Wales research registry and through social media. The COPE survey was completed by 11,113 UK adult residents (18+ years of age). Data collection started on the 13th of March 2020 (10-days before the introduction of the first national COVID-19 lockdown in the UK) and finished on the 13th of April 2020.
HealthWise Wales is based at Cardiff University and was established through Health and Care Research Wales; a Welsh government supported body set-up to oversee a networked and collaborative approach to health and social care research and practice in Wales.
A recent cohort profile paper has been published about the COPE study in PLOS ONE
This outlines further work and the mixed-methods approach COPE will take to integrating person-reported data with routine electronic health record data sources within HealthWise Wales’ SAPPHIRe platform, which is enabled via a SeRP tenancy. SeRP facilitates the storage, linkage and anonymised use of data collected by HealthWise Wales to allow for robust research and intelligence-driven health and policy interventions.
Find out more about the SeRP / HealthWise Wales partnership to deliver the SAPPHIRe platform here.
Follow-up surveys were initially planned at three months (June/July 2020) and 12-months (March/April 2021) after the initial lockdown to provide data on short- and medium-term changes in behaviour and health and wellbeing outcomes. Reintroduction of lockdown measures during 2020/21 mean that regular data collection waves will continue at least until March 2022.
Due to the significant proportion of HealthWise Wales participants who took part in the COPE Study a decision was made before the 3-month follow-up to seek consent from mutual participants to match COPE data with their existing HealthWise Wales data and healthcare records available in SAPPHIRe. Over 5,500 COPE Study participants who were recruited through HealthWise Wales agreed to the linkage of data from both surveys.
SeRP’s Trusted Research Environment (TRE) solution equips HealthWise Wales with a flexible governance approach to data access that provides a shared, collaborative space, but with strict access controls tailored to HealthWise Wales’ requirements. For the COPE study this tailored approach to governance allows for HealthWise Wales data to be linked to SAIL Databank’s vast anonymised health and administrative datasets, securely and ethically, using the LinXmart software available in SeRP.

Lead researcher, Dr Rhiannon Phillips, said, “Working with HealthWise Wales and SAIL Databank on the COPE study has enriched our study in a variety of ways, including providing access to objective health outcomes and pre-pandemic self-report data for our cohort. This will give us a unique and in-depth insight into the complex determinants of behaviour that helps to reduce the spread of infections. It will also help us to understand how the pandemic has impacted on the health and wellbeing of different groups within our population.”

HealthWise Wales’ Research Manager, Dr Pauline Ashfield-Watt, added, “ SAPPHIRe has enabled us to securely match data collected by the COPE Study to existing HealthWise Wales participant data and electronic healthcare records, thereby maximising the use of the HealthWise Wales resource whilst minimising participant burden. In this way SAPPHIRe has supported a rapid, agile, lean and impactful response to understanding health behaviours and outcomes during and beyond the COVID pandemic.”

The recruitment of this large COPE cohort during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, will enable longitudinal analysis of the determinants of health behaviour and changes in subjective health and wellbeing over the course of the pandemic. It also offers a reproducible methodology which enables further opportunities to conduct in-depth analysis of health behaviour and wellbeing. The analysis carried out to date has helped us to understand the drivers of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and the importance of access to green spaces during lockdown for health and well-being. This work could help steer future public health interventions to maximise their effectiveness.