AI will be used to help tackle obesity in Leicester

Artificial intelligence is being used to develop personalised weight loss plans for people across Leicester in a new campaign to tackle obesity.

The H2A programme is being delivered by De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) and Leicester City Council, drawing on expertise in not only artificial intelligence and machine learning but sports, psychology and social care.

It aims to increase numbers of children taking part in school sports, develop neighbourhood programmes to encourage more active lifestyles and analyse data to find “hidden trends” in the lifestyles of people across Leicester.

Latest figures show that nearly one in five adults aged 19 and over in Leicester are classified as obese and 31% are overweight.

Professor Ivan Browne, who is director of public health at Leicester City Council, said as people started to try to ‘live safely’ with Covid-19, it was the perfect time to explore the best ways to improve diet and physical activity.

He said: “The past two years have been particularly challenging ones for Leicester. However, through these tough times, we have learned the importance of working collaboratively to tackle the health challenges that we face as a community. The H2A lifestyle study is a major step in pulling together resources and expertise in the city to try to improve the health of all of us that live here.

“We are fortunate to have excellent educational institutions in our city and we are delighted that DMU have partnered with LCC to help support our local populations to live healthier lives by exploring ways to make it easier for us to improve both our levels of physical activity and our dietary choices.

“Making these decisions has been difficult against the background of covid, and as a result our physical and mental health has often suffered over this period. However, as we now begin to move to the point where we are now trying to ‘live safely with covid’ it feels like the right time for us to collectively work as city to improve our wellbeing. The H2A project will help in this goal, and we are looking forward to developing this programme with DMU and our communities.”

The H2A team has access to data sets including health deprivation statistics, pollution levels, physical activity, health authority information, average weight in Leicester, sports and wellbeing data broken down by postcode in Leicester and Sports England studies.

Professor Bertha Ochieng, Professor of Integrated Health and Social Care at DMU, and project lead said about the recently launched H2A: Lifestyle project:

“Our vision is to co-create with local communities and stakeholders to make physical activity and a healthy diet easier and promote healthy weight across our local population.  During the project, we will develop an interactive tool to allow the study to target the areas and communities most in need and support the local public health practitioners whole systems approach to promoting healthy weight across the lifespan.”

Dr. Ioannis Kypraios, Associate Professor in Artificial Intelligence, is co-principal investigator of the project.

He said the H2A team aimed to empower public health practitioners to reach the communities, and the community to meet health challenges.

“This project brings several disciplines together from maths, physics, biology, computer science and engineering to develop innovative healthcare technologies.  In this project, a holistic intelligent multi-modal approach of interventions for maximising nutrition and physical activity will be designed and developed.  

“An AI model which can predict the minimum changes needed in an individual’s lifestyle will be incorporated in our digital app learning the input data and adapting to the individual’s health goals.  This approach can be scaled up to wider communities nationally.”

The H2A programme is the latest project in DMU’s Local+ programme, a joint scheme which sees academics become consultants for the authority, applying their own and others’ research into key projects. It is the first time that just one project has been run, rather than four smaller projects.
The project team includes representatives from psychology, sport, AI and public health, alongside senior leaders from the university and Leicester City Council.

Posted on Monday 7th March 2022

  Search news archive