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Secondary analysis of existing data: opportunities and implementation

>Hui G Cheng, Michael R Phillips

Abstract

The secondary analysis of existing data has become an increasingly popular method of enhancing the overall efficiency of the health research enterprise. But this effort depends on governments, funding agencies, and researchers making the data collected in primary research studies and in health-related registry systems available to qualified researchers who were not involved in the original research or in the creation and maintenance of the registry systems. The benefits of doing this are clear but the barriers are many, so the effort of increasing access to such material has been slow, particularly in low- and middleincome countries. This article introduces the rationale and concept of the secondary analysis of existing data, describes several sources of publicly available datasets, provides general guidelines for conducting secondary analyses of existing data, and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of analyzing existing data.

Keywords: National Institute of Health; data collection; existing data; secondary analysis; statistical data interpretation.