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Researchers to use AI to understand how cost-of-living crisis impacts on children's health

Researchers at King’s will use artificial intelligence to understand the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on public health. The project is part of a programme of rapid research projects to examine how to ease winter pressures faced by the NHS.

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16 projects have been launched by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) with funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). They cover a range of data-driven approaches to pin-point pressures in the health care system, understand their causes and develop ways to overcome or avoid them. They apply lessons from the pandemic on how to drive rapid-response research that generates results fast and have a direct impact on health policy and clinical care.

The project run by Dr Martin Chapman, Lecturer in Health Informatics from King’s, will use AI to understand how preventative interventions can improve the health of children and young people in the UK.

There isn’t enough emphasis placed on the impact of the health of children and young people on the NHS during winter. Living in cold, damp and mouldy homes leads to chest conditions in children and mental health problems in adolescents, and rising energy costs mean more people than ever are living with heat poverty. – Dr Martin Chapman, Lecturer in Health Informatics

He added: “We’re investigating the effectiveness of interventions like support for energy bills on the health of young people by using Artificial Intelligence to digitally mimic their household environments and evaluate the impact of simulated interventions. This will help guide future policy changes to improve health conditions, reduce inequalities, and in turn reduce pressures on NHS services.”

Other projects include studies aiming to ease pressures on emergency services by using hospital data to speed up patient flow through and out of emergency departments, as well as a project using an analysis approach called ‘machine learning’ to predict peaks of infection with the common bug, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), that can cause serious illness in young children and put pressure on paediatric intensive care units.

Professor Cathie Sudlow, Chief Scientist at HDR UK said: “By using existing data, research teams, and infrastructure these projects are able to respond rapidly to evolving pressures on the NHS. Within three months, they will have honed in on key pain points in the health service, and developed evidence-led recommendations on how best to manage resources and prevent unnecessary illness through the winter.”

Each project is designed to generate findings in just a few months so that they can be implemented for future winters. After being selected in December 2022, the studies will start in January, produce results by the end of March, and publish their findings later this year.

The research is possible thanks to the improved health data infrastructure that was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, partly led by HDR UK with the support of UKRI and partners across the sector, to enable access to data faster, more securely and at a greater scale than has been previously possible.

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Martin Chapman

Martin Chapman

Lecturer in Health Informatics