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Discussions of “big data” in medicine often revolve around gene sequencing and biosamples. It is perhaps less recognized that administrative data in the form of vital records, hospital discharge abstracts, insurance claims, and other routinely collected data also offer the potential for using information from hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people to answer important questions. However, the increasing ease with which such data may be used and reused has increased concerns about privacy and informed consent, particularly in the case of children. Addressing these concerns without creating insurmountable barriers to the use of such data for research is essential if we are to avoid a “missed opportunity” in child health research.
Janet Currie is the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at Princeton University, Chair of the Department of Economics, and the Director of Princeton’s Center for Health and Well Being. She is a member of the Institute of Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and the Econometric Society, as well as past Vice President of the American Economic Association and in-coming President of the Society of Labor Economists. She is on the Board of Reviewing Editors of Science magazine and on the editorial board of the Quarterly Journal of Economics. Her research focuses on the health and well-being of children including early intervention programs, expansions of public health insurance, public housing, and food and nutrition programs. Her current research focuses on socioeconomic differences in child health, environmental threats to children’s health, and the long term effects of poor health in utero and in early childhood.