Analysis of Covid deaths by ethnicity scoops stats award

Winning project 'produced a profound piece of analysis that had huge effects right across government and the health service'

Volunteer Trey Campbell-Simon holds a memorial sign for London Underground worker Belly Mujinga amid names of people who have died during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Gary Calton / Alamy Stock Photo

A team of statisticians whose analysis found people of particular ethnicities were at a greater risk of dying during from Covid-19 – and had a “profound” effect on decision making in government and hospitals – has taken home an award.

The Royal Statistical Society presented the 2021 Campion Award for Excellence in Official Statistics to the Office for National Statistics’ health analysis and modelling teams and the Census and Population Statistics Hub in Methodology in a ceremony yesterday evening for their Covid-19 Deaths by Ethnicity project.

The award – in partnership with the UK Statistics Authority and Civil Service World – recognises government statisticians producing and presenting statistics for the public good.

Covid-19 Deaths by Ethnicity, which analysed health inequalities and ethnicity during the pandemic, has had a “profound impact on decision-making – from government policy through to the handling of the disease in hospitals”, the RSS said.

The project found black men were 4.2 times more likely to die from a coronavirus-19-related death and black women are 4.3 times more likely than white men and women.

It also found people of Bangladeshi and Pakistani, Indian, and mixed ethnicities were also significantly more likely to die than those of white ethnicity.

“The judges considered this to be an outstanding example of work that was clearly communicated, innovative, timely and informing a critical topic,” the RSS said.

“It is a powerful demonstration of what can be achieved through data linkage and regression analysis. High quality data visualisations also helped to make an impact on both public knowledge and government policy.”

A second ONS project examining mortality during the pandemic was highly commended at this year’s award ceremony.

The project was carried out by the health analysis and life events division of the ONS’s methods and international team.

Entitled "comparisons of all-cause mortality between European countries and regions: January to June 2020, " it was the “first reliable international comparison of mortality produced during the Covid-19 pandemic, allowing us to better understand the experience of the UK in an international context”, according to the RSS.

“The judges considered the work to be an outstanding example of how to best compare countries on sound and consistent lines. It highlighted patterns of mortality authoritatively, bringing rigour to the debate on international comparisons,” the stats society said.

It added that the “solid methodology” was supported by excellent graphics showing how coronavirus spread, meeting a “real need for reliable information in a context where it was generally lacking”.

RSS chair Sir David Norgrove said the team behind the winning project had “produced a profound piece of analysis that had huge effects right across government and the health service”.

“It was vitally important to the response to the pandemic. It won out in a very wide range of outstanding projects, showing just how important statisticians have been during the pandemic,” he said.

“The analysis and use of statistics is more prominent in public life than it has ever been, and our statisticians have risen to the challenge despite having to work largely from home, and adapt our surveys to keep people safe and results reliable. Well done to all the nominees for their hard work.”

Gas emissions conversion tool takes Trustworthiness, Quality and Value Award

Also awarded yesterday was the Trustworthiness, Quality and Value Award, which recognises excellence in the voluntary application of the the three “pillars” of the Office for Statistics Regulation’s code of practice.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory team scooped the 2021 award for its Greenhouse Gas Conversion Factors for Company Reporting project, which helps organisations calculate their greenhouse gas emissions.

Previously known as the ​​Voluntary Application Award, the prize is now in its second year and recognises organisations that have voluntarily adopted the OSR’s code. It is awarded in partnership with the OSR and CSW.

The greenhouse gas conversion factors resource enables organisations to convert data on their activity into emissions data, to comply with Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting regulations and other environmental reporting needs and requirements.

“As well as being the main tool to support companies to report emissions in the UK, the factors are a source for policy development and statistical publications across the UK government departments and are internationally regarded as a high-quality resource,” the RSS said.

“This project is a fantastic collaboration that was radical, innovative and created a valuable tool to help government and businesses calculate their carbon emissions from use of fuel, water and waste generation.”

The NHS Test and Trace weekly statistics publication was highly commended in this year’s awards.

The publication, by the NHS Test and Trace External Reporting Team and the Department for Health and Social Care Central Statistics team, provides weekly updates on the implementation and performance test and trace in England.

The project used voluntary application of the code “exceptionally well, at a time when these statistics were required to respond to public need and understanding of the pandemic”, the RSS said.

“The team were also working under intense pressure and scrutiny – but managed to add value, transparency and consistency to this release,” it added.

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