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New weapon for healthcare professionals in fight against serious illness

For the first time diet, exercise and illness have been linked together to identify the health issues of neighbourhoods. HealthACORN, developed by CACI and TNS, is the first consumer classification system to focus on the specifics of health at output area level. It provides healthcare practitioners with an accurate understanding of their local communities, using a wide range of data including food consumption, serious illness, body mass index, alcohol and exercise healthstyle characteristics.

The strength of HealthACORN lies in its ability to identify people likely to have health problems in the future, as well as examining the characteristics of the existing population. As a result, healthcare resources and promotion can directly relate to the needs of the area, with a focus on long-term health improvement.       

By combining information on diet, illness and exercise with demographic attributes, HealthACORN identifies four broad kinds of area:

  1. Existing problems - high levels of serious illness and poor diet and consumption patterns.
  2. Future problems - high levels of severely unhealthy lifestyles likely to lead to serious illness.
  3. Possible future concerns - generally healthy but with some potentially unhealthy lifestyle traits.
  4. Healthy - good health with few lifestyle issues.

Using this method, HealthACORN identifies that:

  • The ex-mining areas of Easington, Bolsover and the Welsh valleys have particularly high concentrations of neighbourhoods currently placing demands on the NHS with high levels of serious illness. Levels of smoking are double the national average, there are more overweight people and the consumption of crisps and sugar-based drinks are high, while intake of fruit and vegetables are well below required levels.
  • Inner London, Nottingham and Hull are home to many residents with unhealthy lifestyles that, without significant changes, are likely to lead to health problems.
  • Wokingham, Hart and Surrey Heath are places where the general good health of residents still requires fine-tuning on some lifestyle traits.
  • Britain's healthiest lifestyles occur in the remote rural areas, such as the Isles of Scilly and Eden as well as the affluent boroughs of West London.

As well as acting as a valuable resource for public sector healthcare professionals, HealthACORN also provides detailed information for other sectors that play a key role in maintaining the health of the UK population. These include private healthcare, financial services, leisure providers, the pharmaceutical industry, FMCG companies and retailers.

Commenting on the findings, John Rae, director of business development at CACI, said: "Illness might appear to occur overnight, but is often the culmination of our lifestyle. What we eat and how we exercise can affect our future health and, thus, the demands we may make of the NHS and other local resources such as fitness facilities.

"This analysis goes beyond simple measurement of existing health patterns and identifies where early intervention can be most effective in reducing future illnesses. This means upstream health interventions can be accurately targeted for based on the needs of each local community."

For more information on HealthACORN showing the results for individual local authorities please visit