Who we are

The Association of Public Health Observatories (APHO) represents and co-ordinates a network of 12 public health observatories (PHOs) working across the five nations of England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We are the focus for joint public health intelligence work with organisations across these nations, and those working in Europe and beyond.

For our customers and partners, we are a single gateway to a vast range of high-quality and trustworthy public health intelligence, expertise and support.

Our network of PHOs produce information, data and intelligence on people’s health and health care for practitioners, policy makers and the wider community. Our high quality public health intelligence is central to both local and central government health policy and decision-making.

APHO is at the very heart of public health policy and practice, and in a unique place to act as:

  • an advocate for improvements in public health information and intelligence
  • a single point of contact for external partners
  • a learning network for members and participants.

What We Do

Our vision for public health to provide better information that supports better decision making, leading to better health.

PHOs’ expertise lies in turning crude information and data into meaningful health intelligence. We use modern electronic and other methods to bring that information to the fingertips of users and customers. We work in partnership with practitioners, government, health and academic organisations at local and national level. Our core aim is to support better decision-making, leading to better health.

Our key role is to develop public health expertise and in-depth knowledge of health and health care at a regional level. We monitor and forecast trends in health status and disease, and play a major role in showing how health inequalities are being tackled locally and regionally. We monitor the effects of health and health care interventions to help give commissioners and providers of health and related services scientific evidence and data to reduce inequalities in access and outcomes.

We are a single point of contact and co-ordination for health information and intelligence in each of our regions. Our linked websites signpost the important information on health and health care – wherever it comes from. As a result we offer a unique, single retrieval source for the huge range of health intelligence materials.

PHOs publish a range of significant reports, briefings, information and indicators, and provide the tools for users to access the information easily. We have developed training programmes for health intelligence staff and other practitioners and also provide a responsive enquiry service to help answer users’ questions.

Our Public Health Observatories

As well as contributing to the public health intelligence agenda through the APHO work programme, each public health observatory (PHO) serves the public health intelligence needs of its own region or country. In England, this means the Government Office Regions. English PHOs are tasked particularly with supporting the public health intelligence needs of Primary Care Trusts and Local Authorities and work closely with regional and local Directors of Public Health. The roles of PHOs include:

monitoring trends in health status and disease
showing how health inequalities are being tackled
assessing the effects of health care interventions, giving Commissioners and service providers the evidence and data they need to reduce inequalities both in access and health outcomes
Non-English PHOs
Like the PHOs in the English regions, the organisational arrangements of the PHOs in the other four nations vary.

ScotPHO is a collaboration of key national organisations involved in public health intelligence and is led by the Information and Statistics Division (ISD) Scotland and NHS Health Scotland.

In Wales the observatory function is overseen by the Wales Centre for Health and delivered with the National Public Health Service for Wales and is currently under review.

Ireland and Northern Irelands Population Health Observatory (INIsPHO) is housed within the Institute of Public Health in Ireland and is unique in that it covers both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. PHOs are publishing a range of important reports, briefings, indicators and tools, as well as providing a responsive enquiry service to help answer users questions, resources which are accessible through our PHO/APHO websites.

PHOs are publishing a range of important reports, briefings, indicators and tools, as well as providing a responsive enquiry service to help answer users questions, resources which are accessible through our PHO/APHO websites. Added to this, PHOs are developing and delivering high-quality training programmes for health intelligence staff and other practitioners.

Providing support to commissioning
PHOs in England are engaged in a wide range of work to support different elements of the commissioning cycle as set out in NHS reform in England. Much of the work of PHOs is relevant to the wider commissioning pathways envisaged in the more recent guidance from DH in A Framework for Commissioning Health and Well-being. The unique contribution of the PHOs is their ability to provide timely, comparative information at a local (PCT/LA) level and at smaller area – including practice level – comparing with regional and national levels. This is a vital element of the picture if we are to ensure effective implementation of evidence-based pathways of intervention and care. Work to support commissioning can be divided into broad categories:

regularly updated, comparative indicator sets
complex analyses and reports using multiple data sources
regional capacity-building work
bespoke local analytical work for PCTs, LAs, SHAs, academe and others
web tools and signposting of useful resources to support commissioners
commissioned work by national and other bodies
What is special about APHO
It is our position at the heart of public health policy and practice, and our commitment to genuine partnership working that give APHO its unique and special role. It is a position that is allowing us to offer our customers a growing and highly-valued range of services and support.

We give our customers access to the biggest concentration of public health intelligence expertise in the UK and Republic of Ireland Acting as a central point of access, APHO harnesses the expertise of over 150 public health intelligence professionals across all the PHOs.

We make this easy We put our substantial pool of public health intelligence at the fingertips of policy-makers, practitioners, commissioners and researchers. Through our PHO network and the APHO central team, we help customers retrieve and commission the information they need. Our websites offer users a regular stream of products and tools.

We champion our customers right to the best data and intelligence We know that good health intelligence is a major contributor to the future health of our nations, and we work with our partners to constantly improve the quality and accessibility of the data and intelligence available to frontline decision-makers.

We learn and we improve Because we work with such a wide range of partners, both in the UK and internationally, we are constantly learning about new and better ways of collating, analysing and utilising health intelligence data. We not only use what we learn to improve the quality of our own work, but we are committed to sharing this knowledge more widely with our customers and partners.