UK: Obesity is a growing problem across the country. To tackle this problem, Birmingham and Solihull NHS in connection with the Birmingham city council looked at the number of fast-food outlets, particularly in deprived areas of the city. Using several geographic data products including Ordnance Survey Street View and Boundary-Line, researchers plotted the location of schools, youth and leisure facilities. The ability to visually present both these sets of data in a layered digital map allowed them to analyse the nature of the problem. Councillors, planners and public health officials were able to quickly see the results when the data was presented in a visual format using a map background.
A disturbing trend was emerging on the digital map – 71 per cent of primary and secondary schools had a hot-food takeaway within 400m.
“The city has a large number of hot-food takeaways close to schools and local centres. The use of maps helps us to accurately describe where they are located and to tackle their spread,” said Dr Iris Fermin, Head of Public Health Information and Intelligence, Birmingham Public Health.
As a result of the geographic analysis, new rules were agreed to control the numbers of unhealthy food outlets clustered around schools, several planning applications have been refused under these new procedures. It is hoped that these measures and the ability to carry out this kind of analysis will have a positive impact on the future health of the city’s population, particular the younger generation during their formative years.
To make this possible, the public health team in Birmingham have taken full advantage of the Public Sector mapping agreement (PSMA) allowing them access to highly accurate digital map products from Ordnance Survey to analyse their problem. To see more examples of where PSMA membership has brought similar success, please visit our case-study map.