A paradigm shift toward a data-driven socio-economic model is occurring as a result of the increased volume, velocity and variety of data. Powerful tools have been developed to collect, store, analyse, process and visualize large amounts of data. Open data initiatives have been launched to provide broad access to data from the public sector, business and science. Europe is still in the early stages of adopting Big Data technologies and services. Successful adoption of Big Data will require changes in business orientation and strategy, and the functioning of public sector agencies.

PULSE (Participatory Urban Living for Sustainable Environments) leveraged diverse data sources and big data analytics to transform public health from a reactive to a predictive system, and from a system focused on surveillance to an inclusive and collaborative system supporting health equity.

Working within seven global cities, PULSE harvested open city data, and data from health systems, urban and remote sensors, personal devices and social media to enable evidence-driven and timely management of public health events and processes.

The clinical focus of the project was respiratory diseases (asthma) and metabolic diseases (Type 2 Diabetes) in adult populations. The project has developed risk stratification models based on modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors in each urban location, taking account of biological, behavioural, social and environmental risk factors.

Following the recommendations of WHO Europe (2015), the project has also focused on the development of metrics, and data-driven approaches, to community resilience and well-being in cities. Deploying a Health in All Policies (HiAP) perspective, and a ‘whole-of-city’ model, the project has integrated and analyzed data from the health, environment, planning and transport sectors in each city.

PULSE has also developed simulation models of potential policy scenarios to allow decision-makers, citizens and businesses to ascertain the impact of proposed policies. The project culminated in the establishment of Public Health Observatories in each urban location. These observatories have served as linked hubs that utilize knowledge-driven processes and big data to shape intersectoral public policy and service provision, support citizen health, and encourage entrepreneurship in the fields of data science and mobile health.

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