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DATA For Children Collaborative with UNICEF

  • DDI Funding: £100K
  • Timescale: Three years
  • Lead Hub: EFI – Edinburgh Futures Institute

Article written by Lucia MacKenzie

The Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF, hosted by the Data Lab, is a joint partnership between UNICEF, the Scottish Government and University of Edinburgh that enables and delivers collaborations between academics, private sector and public sector that use data science to improve outcomes for children.

The Collaborative has £3 million of funding for these initial three years by the Scottish Government, via the Scottish Funding Council and University of Edinburgh, via the DDI Programme. There is no financial commitment beyond the initial 3-year term and the aim is for the hub to demonstrate success and become self-financing from a number of sources, including philanthropic donations.

The Collaborative focuses on a broad spectrum of childhood themes and topics, including nutrition, population, poverty, mental health and climate change. Current live projects include:

Childhood Poverty Access to Services

This project will focus on mapping children’s physical accessibility to key services, such as clean water and health clinics, in selected countries. The aim is to establish whether the distance and time it takes to travel to a key service could help explain a child’s lack of access to that service, and how access is related to childhood poverty.

Building Footprint Identification

UNICEF is currently working in Chad and Mozambique to improve target population estimates in order to better support health services planning and delivery. This project will explore the creation of a model that is better able to distinguish and systematise building types using satellite images, in turn providing better populations estimates at a local level. This will help to support health services and delivery, with a goal to initially inform immunisation programming, but with scope to be transferable to other programmes in the future.

Nutrition with a Focus on Childhood Obesity

The Growing Up in Scotland (GUS) cohort of data is a long-term monitoring project with a specific focus on the early years (0-6.) The goal is to perform analyses of this data to inform the design of obesity/overweight surveillance systems that can be used, not just in Scotland, but internationally. This project will look to answer key questions such as:

At what specific ages would measuring height and weight most effectively and efficiently identify children at risk of persistent obesity at ages 10 and 12? 

What underlying risk factors for child obesity could be used to accurately identify cases of concern, and intervene in a preventative way, before obesity develops?

Targeting HIV Interventions for Adolescents

Twenty-five years into the HIV response, critical bottlenecks still limit the design and delivery of appropriate services to adolescents and young people at risk of HIV. This project will address this issue by using advanced data science techniques to combine a number of data sources in order to identify the sub-national geographical areas that contain the largest adolescent population and the greatest clustering of adolescent-specific risks and vulnerabilities. This work will provide a model that can help UNICEF reach the adolescents and young people most at risk, improving efficiency, equity and scale of HIV programmes.