Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility Our approach to data - Impact on Urban Health
Booth map of poverty in South London

Our approach to data

What being a data-led organisation means to us and how we use data to guide our funding and strategic decisions.

What data means to us

We aspire to be a data-led organisation. In our context, this means that data plays a critical role shaping our strategy, focusing our efforts on the most important issues, informing our operational decisions, and feeding into continuous learning.

Being data-led also means that we use data responsibly. Being aware of bias, in the data and in ourselves, and having processes in place to avoid doing harm is paramount to our practice and a condition to successfully using innovative tools and technologies.

We know urban health issues are complex and impacted by many factors. We combine our use of quantitative data with qualitative methods and lived experience to better understand our place and explore the connections between people’s health and their context.

The types of analytics we use

Descriptive: what has happened?

By describing the current situation, we can focus our effort on groups that are most at likely to have poorer health outcomes. For example, we worked with Advance Pro Bono to create a map overlaying the places where people are most vulnerable to the health effects of air pollution and their level of exposure. This helped us identify areas that were both vulnerable and exposed and should be prioritised by our programme.

Diagnostic: why has it happened?

Sometimes, correlations are not enough to understand how to best impact a complex issue. More comprehensive analyses, such as system mapping are useful to uncover the direct and indirect causes of poor health outcomes. Diagnostic analysis helps us tackle the right part of a complex issue to maximise our impact.

Predictive: what is likely to happen in the future?

Understanding the current mechanics at play can help us model possible future outcomes. Typical questions include modelling the propagation of information or estimating the impact of new regulations on future health outcomes. For example, using the prevalence of known risk factors we can identify areas where people are more at risk of poor health outcomes in the future.

Prescriptive: what should we do about it?

By modelling the likely effects of an intervention in the years to come, we can inform our current thinking. For example, we commissioned Health Lumen to model the health and economic impacts of both NO2 and PM2.5 exposure under different scenarios.

Cumulative NHS costs attributable to PM2.5 by year in Lambeth

Interrogating multiple sources of data

To build the most exhaustive picture of our place, we need to tap into a broad mix of data. We achieve this both through accessing public data, collecting our own and partnering with organisations.

Open-source data

Open-source data is a fantastic resource. We rely on sources that are available nationally and offer the granularity we need to understand our place in detail:

Data collection

Sometimes, the data that is available is not enough for us to validate some of the hypotheses that underpin our programmatic work. We then commission data collection to specifically plug our knowledge gap. This could be a survey or collecting data from online sources like Twitter to analyse sentiments about a topic or understand how a topic is being discussed online.

Data partnerships

Partnering with organisations who share our vision is a great way to enrich both parties’ knowledge bases. In the past, this has allowed us to access and explore data that we otherwise would not have been able to.

We have partnered with organisations to help them develop their product in a way that is also furthering our mission, funded a Data Scientist to be seconded at the Health Foundation to produce insights that respond to both organisations’ research needs or used a partner’s methodology to apply it to our data.

Our approach to data partnership is innovative and flexible to allow for the right insights to be surfaced to shape great programmes and policy influencing work.

Creating insights for everyone to use

Our insights are key to shaping our strategies and operational decisions. We aim to support others to use our data products to inform their own organisational decisions.

Our Urban Health Index, developed with the Social Progress Imperative, is a great way to move beyond economic indicators as a proxy for health outcomes. We hope that it can inspire more people to use data to focus their interventions.

Anna Tarkington, Data Partnerships Manager

Interested in understanding more about our work with data?

Get in touch with our Data Partnerships Manager to find out more or see how we could work together.

Contact Anna Tarkington