Monday, November 16, 2009

birth statistics

I have looked at the new site mybirth.com.au.

It’s a furphie to think that looking at the statistics enables a person to make informed decisions. The data must be interpreted and applied to the individual in order to contribute to decision making.



I do not support informal collections of birthing data. I’m happy for a site like this to link others to the sites where reliable data collections are accessible, and I’m happy for people to write their analyses of this data, but always giving reference back to the initial source. No data collection is perfect, and we need to scrutinise it carefully.

When I go to a website I am concerned about the reliability of the information and the accountability of the people who manage the site. I need to know who is behind it, and what processes the owners have committed to to ensure that the information is correct and timely. It's a huge task, with the potential to be either very useful, or to contribute to misinformation.


I’m not trying to support or bag the Victorian government for its data, but it’s not true that Victoria does not release information. If you go to http://www.health.vic.gov.au/maternitycare/ you will find enough to study for as long as you have time. It’s not the simple numbers/percentages for each hospital, but it’s still very useful.

Independent midwives put our data up on this blog from time to time, and for some years we have published summaries in Birth Matters, the journal of Maternity Coalition. All midwives who send homebirth data to the government’s perinatal data collection unit receive a copy of the annual homebirth report, so you can ask any independent midwife to show you, and you can make copies. Each hospital also receives one of these reports that compares its own statistics with the data from the whole of the State.



The Victorian Maternity Performance Indicators are an amazing comparison between public hospitals – private hospitals are not given the same scrutiny, but are lumped together. We had a performance indicator analysis of planned homebirths for the past 5 years of data, and the outcomes are brilliant. Have a look at this blog.

One of the reasons the Victorian health department has not gone down the path of publishing simple outcome data is a concern that statistics can be skewed - not comparing like with like. So when the all planned homebirths in 5 years are analysed under performance indicator 'rules' the results become much more reliable and significant. This is the sort of result that should be trumpeted from the rooftops.

Joy Johnston

1 comment:

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