To deliver best practice early intervention services, EIRD applies an epidemiological approach to its work. An epidemiological approach (or public health approach) uses research evidence, systems-thinking, and data to determine the factors associated with different health and welfare outcomes. It moves beyond reporting counts of processes or transactions and explores the patterns of risk factors in populations. In contrast to unstructured data mining, an epidemiological approach is informed by theoretical models based on existing evidence or a hypothesis informed by clinical observations. It typically includes data modelling methods that can take multiple variables into consideration.
The type of data required for epidemiological analysis is different from the data required for administrative reporting, which commonly does not include the recording of outcomes. Administrative data often focuses on collecting information about who received a service, when and how the service was delivered, but often it is not easy or possible to assess the outcomes of the services. Building capability to capture a broad range of evidence-informed risk and protective factors, and service outcomes is essential to building an epidemiological approach.
Shifting to an epidemiological approach involves several activities:
- Tracking relevant patterns in the population to understand the size of the child abuse and neglect problem.
- Identifying risk and protective factors, and risk populations, with particular focus on ecological factors regardless of whether they play a direct role in harm alleged/substantiated (I.e., family environment, community factors, family dynamics, material deprivation etc.)
- Developing and evaluating prevention and intervention strategies, including community-level interventions.
- Advancing recognition and understanding of risk factors, disseminate information about the effectiveness of intervention activities to the public health community.