The George Institute for Global Health drives worldwide health change with SAS®

By generating faster results, better health outcomes are possible. Often solutions are surprisingly simple and quick to implement. Our goal is to speed up crucial change and SAS is instrumental in helping us.

Laurent Billot
Director of Statistics

Figures for premature and preventable deaths continue to make for alarming reading. There are 5 billion people who have no reliable access to health care. And in the next 10 years, 100 million people are forecast to die from chronic diseases before they reach the age of 60.

Clinical trials are being conducted around the world with the aim of improving the health of  millions of people worldwide and preventing premature deaths. But often it can take many years for clinical research to be translated into medical practice.

The George Institute for Global Health conducts medical research aimed to generate change within a five-year period. It has projects in nearly 50 countries and has raised over 450 million dollars for global health research since 1999.

The majority of the organisation's work is with non-infectious diseases and injury prevention and part of its work involves running large-scale clinical trials, where the data is prepared and analysed by its statistics division. More than 95% of the research at the Institute is processed using SAS® Enterprise Guide® for statistical analysis and reporting.

Director of Statistics, Associate Professor Laurent Billot says there is a broad program of research taking place at the Institute. "The data that comes in from the different areas and countries is very large, complex and varied," he says. "Our role in the statistics team is to support the different projects by analysing the data and translating it into usable results."

The end results are published in medical journals around the globe that impact guidelines, government policies and programs. The Institute was ranked among the top 10 research institutions in the world for scientific impact by the SCImago Institutions Rankings (SIR) World Report 2011 – 2013.   

Billot adds while it is good validation to be published in journals, it is more important to have the research implemented into practice. "We want governments to implement changes where needed," he says. "And our ability to generate these changes quickly is helping us drive a major transformation in how healthcare is delivered across the globe."

Big change to diabetes guidelines 

One significant trial the Institute initiated, conducted, and analysed,  called ADVANCE, was a randomised controlled trial that examined the effect of blood pressure and glucose lowering on cardiovascular outcomes in diabetes patients.

As the largest cardiovascular trial of people with diabetes it involved 11,000 patients in more than 200 hospitals across 20 countries and ran over 7 years.

"All the data received was stored on our server in Sydney and the data was extracted and analysed using SAS," Billot says. "The results had a major impact on changing the guidelines around the world for managing diabetes."

From the results, guidelines were changed across worldwide health organisations. These include the International Diabetes Foundation, American Diabetes Association, Diabetes Australia, the National Health and Medical Research Council, European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network.

Another project the Institute is leading is the evaluation of Chronic Disease Management Program for New South Wales Health. The aim of the program is to support more effective health management for people with chronic conditions.

It is structured to support management of care in the community, appropriate with combinations of self-management and care coordination support, and, ultimately to prevent unneccesary admissions to hospital.

"We are leading the evaluation of this initiative and are in the process of collecting data from the past few years on people who have been identified as having chronic conditions," Billot says. "We have linked to all NSW hospitalisations and there have been hundreds of thousands of observations sent to us from NSW Health."

The results will be released next year and are expected to have a significant impact on the management of tens of thousands of patients whose chronic conditions could be better managed. 

Recognised standard for managing data

Billot says in this field, SAS is the recognised standard for analysis because of its ability to manage large amounts of data from disparate sources. "SAS is the common denominator among all our statisticians and analysts – they all use it – so it is easy to work as a team and implement quality checks," he says.

Billot says by generating faster results, better health outcomes are possible. "Often solutions are surprisingly simple and quick to implement," he says. "Our goal is to speed up crucial change and SAS is instrumental in helping us reach that goal."

SAS helps ANZ's training program get back on schedule


The George Institute for Global Health needed a way to efficiently manage the large amounts of data from numerous sources for medical research.


SAS® Enterprise Guide®
SAS® Visual Data Discovery


The George Institute for Global Health has been able to interrogate data from a range of different sources and locations with SAS. The results of the analysis have been instrumental in changing guidelines and policies around the world.

The results illustrated in this article are specific to the particular situations, business models, data input, and computing environments described herein. Each SAS customer’s experience is unique based on business and technical variables and all statements must be considered non-typical. Actual savings, results, and performance characteristics will vary depending on individual customer configurations and conditions. SAS does not guarantee or represent that every customer will achieve similar results. The only warranties for SAS products and services are those that are set forth in the express warranty statements in the written agreement for such products and services. Nothing herein should be construed as constituting an additional warranty. Customers have shared their successes with SAS as part of an agreed-upon contractual exchange or project success summarization following a successful implementation of SAS software. Brand and product names are trademarks of their respective companies.

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