LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 2019/01/07: A National Health Service logo is seen outside a hospital in ... [+] Westminster. (Photo by Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Childhood obesity is a serious health epidemic globally. According to statistics from the World Obesity Federation, there are 158 million obese children around the world. By 2030, this number is expected to reach a staggering 250 million.
In the UK particularly, child obesity is a major challenge. A study conducted by the National Health Service found that 20.2% of 10 and 11 year olds are obese, while 9.7% of 4 and 5 year olds fit into this category. Meanwhile, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health claims that 1 in 5 young children are overweight or obese.
But using data analytics, independent health foundation Guys and St Thomas Charity hopes to learn more about and solve major health issues such as childhood obesity. The organisation is working with the NHS and other organisations to improve child obesity rates in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.
Through leveraging geographic and people data, the organisation says it cantarget resources, identify partnerships, uncover relationships between health issues, people and place, and wider audiences. Its been using Tableau analytics platform to analyze and share insights.
Rob Parker, head of data and analytics for Guys and St Thomas Charity, says: My team at the Charity is spending approximately a quarter of a billion GBP in tackling complex health issues and improving the lives of local residents. As part of a new strategy, we are focusing our resources on the most prominent health issues that are impacting lives in the two London boroughs, including childhood obesity.
For us, data acts as a lighthouse: it can shine a light on where we need to target our efforts and therefore help us to hone the work we do to achieve the most impact. A primary challenge for the Charity is to identify neighbourhoods in the greatest need of support and allocate budget and resources accordingly.
Two years ago, the foundation relied on scatter points in Excel and other traditional methods for disseminating health data. However, this presented many challenges. Parker continues: The drawbacks to this reliance on Excel quickly became apparent. Lack of interactivity introduced a lag between requests from decision makers about the data and a response from my team. It was also challenging to understand what the data meant in practice. Lack of mapping capability and other data visualisation tools meant we couldnt see spatial patterns.
Since implementing Tableau, Parker and his steam have a more powerful way to make sense of these crucial insights. As soon as I played with the software I was converted and quickly curated a completely different view of our data. Suddenly, I could accurately interpret scatter points, he says.
The ability to quickly and simply explore and map the data led to immediate insights that radically changed the way we work. The data told us there is significant variation in childhood obesity across the two boroughs. The variation is particularly great in Southwark, where the variation is almost as great as across the entire city. Importantly, there is significant variation in the prevalence of the underlying factors that are relevant to tackling child obesity, such as income and deprivation.
He says the ability to map the data also shows variation in obesity is not random. Theres a clear corridor that runs across the boroughs. When mapped against the boroughs geography, the outcomes display a clear pattern, running west-east just above the centre of the boroughs. So much in fact that, with rates radiating out of an obesity epicentre around Faraday and East Walworth wards, the pattern looks like that of an infectious disease, explains Parker.
The organisation has adopted other technologies as it continues to research childhood obesity. Parker says: We also adopted Alteryx and Mapbox, which have really complemented our work in Tableau. Over the same period, we have been moving onto Salesforce, which has further broadened our capabilities by allowing us to overlay what we know about the health issues and data where our projects are taking place and where our resources are following.
According to Parker, this technology is already achieving impressive results. He says:
Using the latest inbuilt maps and the new hyper files, Tableau gives us answers to our questions within 20 minutes. Its incredible how quick the time to insight is. This ability to connect and collaborate in the interactive maps is generating valuable, transparent intelligence into childhood obesity
Tableau has enabled us to uncover new insights into childhood obesity across the boroughs. For example, if you take the top 12 wards with the highest rates of childhood obesity and map them, its immediately apparent that those wards are right next to each other.
Parker explains that its precision enables the organisation to expand and better target health programmes. This is imperative since the Charitys strategy calls for 70% of the resources allocated to a problem area to be used within the locations with the highest need. We are now exceeding this target, allocating over 80% of resources to these areas, he says.
The integration of the Charitys Salesforce application with Tableau is helping to validate that spend. We have data in Salesforce that shows where we spend our money, which weve mapped in the platform. We also have a map of where weve identified need. Those two maps are very, very similar.
With the entire organisation connected to Tableau, its now looking at different ways it can share insights with other parties. Parker concludes: After all, the insights we are revealing may be useful to individuals working on similar social initiatives and we dont want to hide away our insights in silos.
Read the rest here:
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