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NHS and OS battle obesity in Birmingham

Using Ordnance Survey’s Street View product, NHS in Birmingham has pin pointed fast food joints near schools to cut on obesity rising rates.


Combatting obesity in Birmingham with Ordnance Survey (OS) mapping data.

This case study outlines how Ordnance Survey mapping data supplied through the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) gave Birmingham's Public Health team the information it needed to tackle obesity locally head on.

The operational challenge

Obesity is a huge problem in Birmingham, costing the city’s NHS £330 million a year. Almost a quarter of Year Six children are officially obese, with statistics directly linking takeaways close to schools to high levels of obesity.

In addressing this, the local Public Health team faced the following challenges:

  • Plotting local schools, youth facilities and leisure centres on an interactive, digital map.
  • Identifying fish and chip shops, pizza, kebab or Chinese takeaways within a 400m perimeter of 71% of primary and secondary schools.
  • Sharing geographic data to encourage collaborative working towards better health.
  • Making it easier to target fast food bosses with opportunities to improve their menus.

The solution

By using Ordnance Survey’s OS Street View, Birmingham’s Public Health team could produce a map showing the high number of takeaways near schools across the city.

As well as providing valuable information, the map is easy to share and has given headteachers and planning departments the data to support opposition to applications for new fast food outlets near schools.

"While the determinants of obesity are complex and interrelated, social and environmental factors clearly have an influence. 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."
Dr Iris Fermin, Head of Public Health Information and Intelligence, Birmingham Public Health.

The data driven benefits

Following the development of this easy to use map:

  • The spread of unhealthy fast food outlets around schools has significantly slowed.
  • The local planning department has adopted a policy to limit the number of new fast food outlets.
  • Since the policy, almost half of applications for new takeaways have been denied. No more than 10 percent of units in any shopping area can now be takeaways.

From 1 April 2020, the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA), was superseded by the Public Sector Geospatial Agreement (PSGA).