A tool that compares obesity rates nationwide was among the winners of a UK/US competition to creatively use open data sets on obesity.

The three winning UK projects were announced at the Health and Care Innovation Expo in Manchester this month.

These were; a data visualisation tool for policy makers developed by Cancer Research UK; a clinical calculator API developed by Dr Marcus Baw and a team from Young rewired State; and a future economic impact calculator by Red Ninja.

Tara Potheroe, who leads the data innovation team at Cancer UK, told the Expo audience that the Pounds for Pounds tool was developed “to enable policy makers to see impact of obesity on their city or constituency”.

One eye-catching finding was that Durham had the highest incidence of obesity in the UK, standing at 72% of the population.

GP, Dr Marcus Baw worked with a team from Young Rewired State to develop a Clinical Calculator API. 

He explained that reliable centile charts, with the correct maths behind them, are essential to calculate whether a child is obese or not.  “But the maths is not easy to do, so we provided a tool that gets clinical calculations right and enables developers to use them with confidence.”

Dr Baw added: “You can’t diagnose obesity until you have done a BMI centile calculation – not one GP system in the UK can calculate this.  We did an API in a week.”

Hayley Webb from Red Ninjas explained that the Healthy Futures tool is focused on predicting the future impact of obesity.  It does this by providing a dashboard which can be used to predict the effects of childhood obesity on towns both now and in the future. 

Tim Kelsey, national director for patients and information at NHS England said: “This challenge has been a real success for us.  The diversity of entries revealed an exceptional level of innovation in the use of open data in ways that can contribute meaningfully to the obesity epidemic that challenges our nation.”

In January 2014 the US Department of Health and Human Services and NHS England signed a memorandum of understanding, committing to a joint programme of work around data and technology. That June, a common theme of obesity was identified for this collaboration.

In the US, where one overall winner was chosen, the accolade went to healthdataplus.org, which provides a health data and obesity data visualisation application.