Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation tackle urban health with Local Insight

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Guy’s & St Thomas’ Foundation is a leading independent health foundation. They are one of the oldest charitable foundations in the country and have been working with the residents of Lambeth and Southwark for over 500 years. The south London boroughs have high density and large populations, with all the different and complex health challenges faced by urban communities. As the foundation seeks to progress its agenda over the coming decades, it has created three distinct brands to tackle the varying challenges faced by urban populations. The core of these is Impact on Urban Health which is focused on health equity across the varying living environments of its communities.

About Impact on Urban Health

The places where we grow up, live and work impact how healthy we are. Urban areas such as inner-city London have some of the most extreme health outcomes; alongside their vibrancy and diversity sit stark health inequalities. Impact on Urban Health believes that we can remove obstacles to good health by making urban areas healthier places for everyone to live.

From their home in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, Impact on Urban Health invests, tests, and builds an improved understanding of how cities can be shaped to support better health. Focusing on a few complex health issues that disproportionately impact people living in cities, they work with local, national and international organisations, groups and individuals to tackle these health issues.

Neighbourhood data at their fingertips

Having a comprehensive understanding of the communities Impact on Urban Health is working with at neighbourhood level is critical to the success of all of the work the organisation does. Local Insight has dramatically reduced the research time put into building data maps and gathering datasets the researchers need.

Local Insight brings vast amounts of local, regularly updated data together in one place. Having such data readily and easily available means Impact on Urban Health can concentrate resources, time and energy on analysis of the data for their programmes, rather than gathering the data from disparate sources in disparate formats.

Developing an Urban Health Index

The team at Impact on Urban Health use the Data Downloads to extract indicators and run their own analyses to help programmes with targeting and planning through identifying vulnerable neighbourhoods.

One example of this is the creation of a Lambeth and Southwark specific Urban Health Index.

The UHI provides an aggregate measure of social progress that captures three main areas:

  • Basic Human Needs
  • Foundations of Wellbeing
  • Opportunity

Since it only measures social outcomes, it is complementary to traditional economic indicators (e.g. GDP), and enables social progress to be meaningfully benchmarked against peers in other similar localities.

To build the Index, Impact on Urban Health needed comprehensive data across a wide set of metrics, not all based in health. Using a selection of the over 1100 datasets within Local Insight, the team were able to quickly and easily identify and select the indicators needed for the Urban Health Index.

In addition they were also able to export that data for the areas they cared about using the Dashboards.

Tailoring Local Insight to their needs

As well as all of the data that is included within Local Insight as standard, Impact on Urban Health also complement this with their own data that they add into the tool. This provides new insights tailored to the themes they are specifically interested in.

Uploading services as point locations on the map helps in quickly visualising where service provision meets service need, while uploading full datasets (that appear on the maps in the same way as standard datasets – as a choropleth map) gives even more flexibility to what data can be explored. In both cases, it provides an extra layer of data about the communities they work with.

Childhood obesity

The real-world applications of this can be seen in Impact on Urban Health’s work to tackle childhood obesity.

Impact on Urban Health used the services functionality to plot the locations of schools across their boroughs, and were able to add additional, contextual information to each point (such as the address of the school). They then overlaid this information with data on childhood obesity. From here, the information was used to help identify partner schools to work with in the areas facing highest levels of childhood obesity.

Impact on Urban Health have also added additional datasets into the system, including historical childhood obesity data for their areas, so that they and their partners can explore changes over time. By plotting the resulting change in the data year-on-year, the foundation has been able to track the results of their public health interventions over time, seeing the positive impact of campaigns driven by local area data.

Sharing data and knowledge with partners

Impact on Urban Health works with many different partner organisations and stakeholders on health issues. They wanted a platform where partners could easily access the latest data and analysis for Lambeth and Southwark at neighbourhood level. The desire is for partner organisations to really get to grips with the tool and understand the powerful, data driven strategies that Local Insight can fuel. The public facing Local Insight site allows anyone to access data and reports for the neighbourhoods they work in.

Simple and intuitive dashboards, choropleth maps and click-of-a-button generated reports mean that anybody can gain insights about their areas, without needing to be a statistician – ‘We feel much of the power of the Local Insight tool lies in its accessibility and ease of use for all our partners’, says Alessandra Denotti (Data Analyst).

Partners can choose which visualisations best suit their needs. These can all then be used outside of the tool, whether as part of reporting documentation, funding applications or to fuel research. By making this data public, Impact on Urban Health is directly contributing to the success of not just their campaigns, but helping others to succeed too.

Take a look at Impact on Urban Health to get more of an insight into their work. For any questions about their research or how you can best use their tool, please get in touch with Alessandra on

Sign up for a free trial of Local Insight and:

  • gain fuss-free, instant access to local level data, matched to the areas you care about
  • visualise your own grant-making data on your map
  • share ready-made profile reports with partner organisations
  • get ongoing support from an expert data team
  • accessible and readable to people at all levels of knowledge

This post also appears on the Local Insight website.

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