Part 4 : Helpful practices when reporting

Using the United Nations' Madrid indicators to better understand our ageing population.
The two words "information" and "communication" are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.
Sydney J Harris

In this Part, we identify the practices that we found most helpful in reporting on the indicators.

It is not often that one of our projects requires us to get data from such a wide range of public entities. Some public entities had clearly given a lot of thought to making their data accessible to audiences with less expertise. We identified good practices that we encourage public entities to adopt.

We encourage public entities to adopt as many of the practices in this Part as they can to get the maximum value from the data and improve the quality of reporting to the public and other public entities.

We found it useful when public entities:

  • wrote reports that answered the likely questions that people might have about a topic;
  • identified the changes in the data that were statistically significant;
  • used consistent methods for reporting results so that changes over time could be identified;
  • reported data using consistent age groups for older people, younger adults, and children, which made it easier to bring together data from several sectors; and
  • clearly identified the public entity with lead responsibility for a document (usually in the citation reference near the front of the document) when the logos of more than one organisation were on the cover.

It was helpful when entities published data tables alongside their report so that we could see all the data collected, not only the data that was highlighted in the report, and published supporting data tables alongside analyses and conclusions so that we could check them.

It helped when data was reported in 10-year age groups and 65-plus when the sample sizes were too small to produce statistically reliable results for five-year age groups.

In our view, technical and detailed reports should always include a plain English report or summary for less expert audiences.

It was useful when:

  • the dates that reports were published were on the document (not just the website);
  • the date that the next report on a topic would be published was provided in a document or on a website;
  • statistics were provided to support statements in reports that x or y was more or less likely to happen;
  • survey sample sizes were large enough to produce reliable statistics by age group, sex, and ethnicity; and
  • confidence intervals were given for survey and/or sample statistics.

Using meaningful time series to show trends and having reporting cycles coincide with the availability of new or updated data was also helpful.

Outcome indicators that clearly stated what goal or standard was sought and publishing and reporting against indicator frameworks were useful.

Examples of these helpful practices can be found in:

  • the Inland Revenue Department's KiwiSaver evaluation reports;
  • Statistics New Zealand's reports and online tools;
  • the Ministry of Health's reports on the New Zealand Health Survey; and
  • the Ministry of Transport's indicator framework and travel survey reports.

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