Data Science at Public Health England (PHE)

Sam Dunn and Seb Fox

29 November 2018


Who we are

PHE is an executive agency of the Department of Health and Social Care. We provide government, local government, the NHS, Parliament, industry and the public with evidence-based professional, scientific expertise and support.

We exist to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities.

PHE was established on 1 April 2013 to bring together public health specialists from more than 70 organisations into a single public health service

Fingertips is our main data page, this is where we display most of our indicators. These profiles allow users to: * Browse indicators at different geographical levels * Benchmark against the regional or England average * Export data to use locally

fingertips website

Data Science at PHE

The Public Health Data Science (PHDS) team is located within the national Knowledge and Intelligence Service and is part of the Health Improvement Directorate within PHE.

PHDS team was formed in 2015 following reorganisation.

Data science aims to generate insight and knowledge from data and is a developing field within broad public health. PHE is interested in how data science can better support decision making across it’s work in prevention, improving health and wellbeing and healthcare variation and inequality.

PHE’s Public Health Data Science team consists of public health specialists, statisticians and analytical staff. It works closely with colleagues across PHE, supporting the knowledge and Intelligence needs of the local and national public health system and developing close working relationships with external stakeholders to promote the development of data science across the public health system.

5 main areas of work:

Our vision

Our vision has been to “consolidate, automate, innovate”. Each step makes the subsequent step easier.

The PHDS vision (acknowledgement to Michael Heasman)

The PHDS vision (acknowledgement to Michael Heasman)


The consolidate step is essentially part of the overall data strategy and is a fundamental building block.

We have filled a “Data Lake” built on tidy data principles.

Datasets included:

Install Package Screen


Having tidy data in a central database allows us to create efficiencies.

There are a number of projects working on automation within Knowledge and Intelligence involving multiple teams across the organisation.

Two broad themes:

  1. Data management and automated indicator production
  2. Reporting and presenting data