Obesity data challenge innovators claim £30k prize

NHS England is pleased to announce the winners of a £30,000 international challenge prize to publish or present data on obesity in a new, exciting and useful way.

The NHS made it clear in the Five Year Forward View that now is the time to get serious about prevention.  The challenge to data enthusiasts was to use open data to produce new visualisations, apps or tools that will help to kick start action against obesity.

The USA’s Department of Health and Human Services partnered with NHS England to carry out the same challenge in the States.  Obesity is a common problem for both nations: two in three US adults and 64% of UK adults are overweight or obese.  Obesity contributes to a host of other diseases, including increased risk of heart attack, strokes and diabetes.

The announcement took place on Day One of the NHS Health and Care Innovation Expo conference in Manchester.

Tim Kelsey, National Director for Patients and Information at NHS England said: “This challenge has been a real success for us.  The diversity of entries revealed an exceptional level of innovation in the use of open data in ways that can contribute meaningfully to the obesity epidemic that challenges our nation.”

Susannah Fox, US Department of Health and Human Sciences Chief Technology Officer said: “We were happy to see that people used a wide variety of government datasets and visualization tools to develop their ideas. The diversity of submissions speaks to the importance of opportunities like this challenge to bring different perspectives together onto one platform to meaningfully address obesity,”

The winning entries are:

Pounds for Pounds – an online tool which allows users to compare the prevalence and cost of obesity in graphic form in their local area.  The platform seeks to highlight to key opinion leaders and policymakers the economic impact on the NHS of excess weight in their local areas.  The hope is that demonstrating current and forecasted effects of obesity will help spur key local leaders into action.

Clinical Calculator API – a programme which provides quality-assured medical calculations such as Centiles for Body Mass Index (BMI) for apps, websites and desktop applications – a vital measure for defining obesity.

Healthy Futures – a dashboard which can be used to predict the effects of childhood obesity on towns both now and in the future.  The tool is aimed at policy makers and commissioners to inform decision making, incentivise them to change, improve and, ultimately, to reduce obesity.

These innovations will allow commissioners of services to understand more on the habits of the population and help inform the public.  They will help to articulate the extent of the problem; enable healthcare providers to better treat their patients; and empower patients to find solutions available to them.

In January 2014 the US Department of Health and Human Services and NHS England signed a memorandum of understanding, committing to a joint programme of work around data and technology. In June 2014 a common theme of obesity was identified for this collaboration.

You can learn more about the winners of the US’s obesity data challenge here.