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OPINION

Councils and health partners will find industry data biased, if it doesn’t tell the complete story

We risk being accused of making health inequalities worse, not better, at a time when they’re increasing My optimism is tempered by fears that the story we might tell using Moving Communities could be partial and flawed by the data itself and how it’s collected. These very personal reflections emanate from research I’ve done recently when developing my thinking on Proportionate Universalism, as presented in a paper published by the Sport Think Tank (www.HCMmag.com/universal). I have four concerns. 1) Representative data We expect early attendance to be constrained by safety and financial concerns, so any picture painted by this data will be a partial one and hardly representative of our communities. In addition, if we only rely on participation data generated from membership schemes to paint the picture, we’re very likely to demonstrate – as we did before the pandemic – that we mainly serve those coming from better-off communities. If this is the case we risk being accused of actually making health inequalities worse, not better – at a time when health inequalities are increasing due to the pandemic. 2) Access to data Usage of facilities by the less-well-off and other often excluded groups usually happens through casual use, targeted programmes and concessionary charging schemes and is often missed from participation data, because this data is either harder to access and collect or unavailable. 80

Issue 5 2021 ©Cybertrek 2021

3) Incomplete sample Although operators and councils are being asked to survey all customers to minimise the risk of a biased picture emerging, the customer experience surveys behind Moving Communities rely on online responses generated via email requests which could miss many of those accessing the facilities on a casual, targeted or concessionary basis. Given initial COVID-19 safety requirements mean more customers have to provide contact information, this should limit under-representation in the initial stages of reopening, but once these requirements are relaxed, the reliance on using more easily accessed data relating to usage by people with memberships would result in a biased picture emerging again. 4) Stakeholder priorities If we only rely on this easily accessible membership scheme data from which to calculate social value there’s a further danger that we’ll be telling a partial story and one that many councils and health partners may find unhelpful – especially if their primary focus is on those most in need and on reducing health inequalities.

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HCM Issue 5 2021  

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