Integrating Data on Health and Environment (C2D2)

Departments: Health Sciences, Environment, SEI-Y

Project Director: Professor Tim Doran

European Space Agency/NASA satellite image of the UK and Ireland at Night

‌England is afflicted by persistent and widening inequalities in health, with different groups living within the same country effectively living in different epidemiological worlds. These inequalities are particularly marked in urban areas, where affluent neighbourhoods are located in close proximity to areas of severe material deprivation.

The causes of these inequalities are partly social - greater affluence is generally associated with better health - and partly due to the distribution of environmental exposures, such as pollutants in the air, earth and water. Health inequalities are particularly marked in urban areas, where affluent and deprived neighbourhoods are close together. Multiple pollutants and the characteristics of urban environments also impact on both physical and mental health, for example: sympathetic urban design can enhance mood and well-being, whilst poor design can increase stress and feelings of isolation.

Whilst the trends in these diseases and their inequitable social and geographical distributions have been well described, the associations between environmental exposures, socio-economic factors and health outcomes are still poorly understood. Recent advances in routine data collection and collation mean that new datasets are now becoming available. In addition, new methodologies for data linkage, modelling and causal inference mean that artefactual findings from interrogating large and complex datasets can be reduced to a greater extent than was previously possible.   

This project will analyse the latest, spatially explicit, UK health data in order to understand the relationships between multiple environmental exposures and a range of health outcomes, beginning with mental health outcomes. An understanding of these relationships will help inform future statutory monitoring and mitigation programmes for pollutants and urban design to improve conditions in cities, as well as identifying the best policy interventions for improving urban health.

We are:

  • Developing methods for understanding the impacts of urbanisation by linking, for the first time, environmental data on a range of exposures to health data at the individual level;
  • Exploring the interactions between environmental factors, material conditions, socio-economic factors and health outcomes and hence identify factors that modify susceptibility to the health impacts of environmental exposures.

By linking the anonymised health care records of individual patients to data on both the social characteristics and the physical environment of neighbourhoods we can measure the impact of environmental exposures on inequalities in mental and physical health.

Funding: Centre for Chronic Disease and Disorders (C2D2) Wellcome Trust