Lambeth and Southwark from above, Map data ©2021 Google

Urban health

Creating an Urban Health Index for Lambeth and Southwark

12 April 2021
5 min read

Data Partnerships Manager, Anna Tarkington, talks about the launch of the Urban Health Index, a ground-breaking social progress index for the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.

Anna Tarkington
Anna Tarkington
Data Partnerships Manager

Lambeth and Southwark from above, Map data ©2021 Google


For the last year, we’ve been working with the Social Progress Imperative to create a set of metrics to assess the social progress of our boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. The result of this partnership is the Urban Health Index.  

By layering data relating to different social and environmental indicators, we hope to build a better picture of the circumstances of people living in urban areas and how their environment impacts their health. 

Looking beyond economic indicators to understand health inequalities 

One principle behind the work of the Social Progress Imperative is that “economic development is important, but strong economics alone do not guarantee strong societies.”

In our Urban Health Index, we can apply this to an understanding of health. Based on the Social Progress Index (SPI), developed in 2014, our Index looks beyond economic indicators to understand the other important characteristics of neighbourhoods that shape health and wellbeing.

Economic development is important, but strong economies alone do not guarantee strong societies.

Social Progress Imperative

Using the Urban Health Index in practice 

The Urban Health Index is the first neighbourhood level, health-focused SPI of its kind. It provides information on 68 neighbourhoods in Lambeth and Southwark and includes the most recent data available. We capture data on 42 indicators relating to basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing and opportunity, and present these as an interactive scorecard.

We can take the examples of Tulse Hill and Herne Hill and Dulwich Park to demonstrate the benefits of using the Urban Health Index. These areas are a mile and a half from each other, but women living in Herne Hill and Dulwich Park can expect to live in ‘good’ health 17 years longer than those living in Tulse Hill. 

Tulse Hill scorecard
Herne Hill scorecard

Thanks to thIndex, we can see these disparate health outcomes reflected in other indicators on the scorecard; there are substantial variations in everything from educational attainment, to download speeds, to green spaces. The Index allows us to probe these differences further and understand the relationship between these social indicators and the unequal health outcomes we find in urban areas. 


Tulse Hill and Herne Hill are a mile and a half from each other – but there’s a difference in healthy life expectancy of 17 years.

While we know income plays a huge role in urban health, if we look at two neighbourhoods with comparable income levels, but noticeably different health outcomes, we can start to identify some key social factors that might be having an impact on overall health. This is not only valuable for identifying opportunity areas for the work we do, but this could be incredibly beneficial to local stakeholders and partners who work directly in these areas, often implementing programmes and influencing local policies.

One example from our Index is North Dulwich and Nunhead South and Newlands. Both neighbourhoods have very similar household income estimates. Despite this, North Dulwich is ranked 8th in Health and Wellness and Nunhead South and Newlands ranks 67th. Upon further exploration, we can see that while North Dulwich is doing well across all components, Nunhead South and Newlands has much lower scores in Shelter and Personal Freedom & Choice. We can start to think about the correlation these have with health and look for other patterns of relationship.

North Dulwich scorecard
Nunhead South and Newlands scorecard

Decision making informed by data 

From the scorecard, we can see where some of the worst health outcomes occur and understand the characteristics of these areas. By guiding us to where need is greatest, this can help us target our resources more effectively. This is especially important given the huge range of outcomes that are typical in urban areas and particularly acute in Lambeth and Southwark. 

Understanding the characteristics of these areas helps us tailor our projects to fit their specific needs. For example, our children’s health and food programme is working to change the environments where we shop, eat and live to improve access to nutritious food By combining data from the Urban Health Index with evidence and lived experience, we can better understand how this can be achieved. 

We’re also better able to replicate and scale our work. What we find here in Lambeth and Southwark might be able to tackle urban health issues in other areas – using the Index to identify areas with similar characteristics may make this approach more effective.

This first health focused Social Progress Index has highlighted how important it is to understand the social and environmental factors that impact health and well-being. When you know the real needs of a community, then you can begin to create real change.

Michael Green CEO, Social Progress Imperative

Sharing data with others in Lambeth and Southwark 

Building the Urban Health Index for Lambeth and Southwark was a long-term endeavour lead by the Data & Analytics team at Impact on Urban Health, supported by the Social Progress Imperative. 

We’ll be updating the information on annual basis. We also intend to share the underlying data so people can find their own insights and answer the questions that are important to them. 

To achieve our ambitions of making urban areas healthier places to live, we need coordinated, cross-sector partnerships to address health inequalities. We hope the Urban Health Index will make is easier for those also working in our boroughs to identify opportunities to improve the environments in which people live. If you have a question about using the Index or are interested in working with us on our data, please get in touch.

We will continue to build on the Urban Health Index so we can work faster and more efficiently towards our objective to improve the health of people who live in Lambeth and Southwark. 

Explore the Urban Health Index