ActEarly: Holme Wood – Using Data Science to Improve Public Outcomes 

In January 2020, data scientists, community practitioners, service providers, and policy makers came together for an Alan Turing Institute-sponsored workshop: Improving Lives Through Place-Based Urban Analytics. The focus of the workshop was on Holme Wood, one of the most deprived communities in Bradford (and the country), and the goal  identify Holme Wood’s most pressing challenges, then narrow those down to topics that can be explored via data science.  

Out of that workshop came 5 priority areas: (1) Exclusions, Children Not in School, and Crime; (2) Healthy Choices, Healthy Lives; (3) The Impact of Poor Mental Health on Individuals, the Community & Services; (4) Pride, Aspirations, Role Models and Careers; (5) Adverse Childhood Experiences 

The Alan Turing Institute generously funded what has now become the ActEarly: Holme Wood project, in order to improve the lives of people through the application of data science. 
Data scientists from the Turing Institute, Leeds Institute of Data Analytics, and Regional Universities have been linked to one or more of the project areas, to analyse relevant public datasets and identify patterns and issues.Three data projects launched in October 2020, and 3 more will begin in April 2021.

The October-start projects are:

Mental Health
Project Lead: Prof Mark Mon-Williams
LIDA Data Intern: Maike Gatzlaff

Mental health issues are prevalent within the Bradford District, with a mental ill health epidemic affecting many children and young people (CYP). This project aims to improve gaps in mental health provisions available to the Bradford District and Holme Wood by: (i) mapping mental health inequalities and service accessibility and (ii) interrogating datasets (e.g. the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children and Born in Bradford) to better understand factors (e.g. alcohol and drug use) that influence mental health in CYP. Interactive maps will be used to aid in communication with policymakers, service providers, and local residents. The goal is to enable evidence-based policymaking and use data science to inform possible interventions.

Life Choices, Pride, & Aspirations
Project Leads: Dr. George Aivaliotis, Dr. Lanpeng Ji
LIDA Data Intern: Paul Truman

Everyone has decisions in their life, which are influenced by environment (family, friends and wider), and in particular role models and success stories. This project will model crucial life decisions taken, with a particular focus on education, childhood influences, and the transition from primary to secondary school on the Holme Wood estate. The project will provide tools for stakeholders to better understand how key decisions are made and inform related interventions for improving choices.

Healthy Choices, Healthy Lives
Project Lead: Dr. Michelle Morris
LIDA Data Intern: Tom Albone

Consumption of unhealthy food often leads to poor health outcomes, such as obesity and heart disease. This project aims to understand the barriers to and/or drivers of accessing affordable and healthy food in Holme Wood through: (i) mapping and spatial analysis of the local food and activity environment; (ii) identifying barriers to accessibility and using this to model the optimal location for fresh food outlets; (iii) comparison of Holme Wood with other areas; (iv) development of an interactive tool for local policy makers and community organisations; and (v) engagement with the local community to promote empowerment with intervention strategies.


Community Engagement

Existing datasets are essential to the project, but equally important is community input. Community engagement activities and data collection will be conducted to better understand topics from a community perspective. These activities will be enabled through support from Bradford For Everyone, which has funded a community engagement officer, Lauren Batty, Director of Holme Wood-based organization OutLoud. 

Data scientists will also model the data they analyse in a publicly accessible way, so that community members, practitioners, and policy makers can manipulate, learn from, and test predictions with it. Leaders of the project hope to encourage citizen science through community spaces in Holme Wood – to show policy makers, practitioners and members of the public the power and potential of data science. As part of making data publicly accessible, artists-in-residence have been commissioned from Immersive Networks, to create virtual reality applications with interactive data for each of the projects. 

Throughout the data process and ongoing conversations with the community, the plan is to develop data-informed, publicly shaped action research projects for each priority area. The research projects will aim not to create new services, but to more effectively align and target frontline services, to empower community members to take ownership of issues. 

Ultimately, ActEarly leaders hope to learn from the Holme Wood project, to establish a unique process of using data analytics to inform public services and policy. This process has potential to be replicated and adapted, to drive positive change not only in Bradford, but countrywide.  


For more information on the ActEarly: Holme Wood Project, please contact Mallory Morehead (