Scotland: new project to tackle childhood obesity

A collaborative project by two organisations has been launched to deal with childhood obesity in Scotland.

Children’s charity UNICEF and The Data Lab, which is one of the eight innovation centres funded by the Scottish Funding Council, have joined forces to address the issue.

They are calling on public and private organisations to collaborate and share data to help tackle childhood obesity.

Since 1998, the proportion of children in Scotland aged two to 15 at risk of being overweight and obese has fluctuated between 29% and 33% putting these children at risk of serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes.

UNICEF has recognised that solving some of the most complex problems affecting children around the world will require access to different data sets and expertise from diverse sectors.

The rapid rise in the availability of quality data offers a wealth of information that UNICEF has been keen to tap into.

To do so, it has developed in partnership with The Governance Lab (The GovLab) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering and the Omidyar Network.

DataCollaboratives is about encouraging organisations from different sectors – including private companies, research institutions and government agencies – to exchange and share data.

This is now being promoted in Scotland through UNICEF’s relationship with The Data Lab.

Once the initial proof of concept project on child obesity has been delivered, UNICEF and The Data Lab will work on delivering a Data Collaboratives hub in Scotland. 

It will enable data scientists and strategists to work on some of the most pressing problems facing children around the world.

Jude McCorry, head of business development at The Data Lab, said the plan was to explore the impact of factors such as advertising and level of exercise.

'We would like to collaborate with the owners of data sources like shopper data, TV adverts, online gaming, use of green spaces and school lunch suppliers through the Data Collaboratives platform. We want to use the data to predict, inform and then help families and organisations that play an influential role in our children’s lives. It’s about helping understand the real factors impacting obesity,' she said.

The collaborative project also aims to look at the links between obesity and other health conditions and predict the treatment of these diseases into the future. The findings and outcomes from the initiative will ultimately be shared with other countries around the world.