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Clinical Effectiveness Group

REAL-HEALTH Child Health

The REAL-HEALTH Child Health initiative focuses on childhood obesity and congenital disorders.

Our REAL Child Health programme aims to develop scalable near real-time health data linkage as part of a research-enabled learning health system for our ethnically diverse child population, in order to:

a) understand the causes and consequences of childhood obesity and to inform innovative approaches to manage and prevent it

b) identify actionable opportunities to improve the management and health outcomes of rare childhood conditions detected by newborn blood spot screening.

These are first of their kind studies, providing information on conditions of public health importance to children and their families, and leveraging the unique developments in near real-time integrated health records which have been pioneered in east London by the Clinical Effectiveness Group and the related Discovery Programme. Both have potential for national scalability.

Underpinning these two exemplar projects is our aim to develop a learning health system to support improvements in population health for children.

A major focus of our programme is households. We are using innovative methods to characterise the households children live in and to use this for research to investigate the wider household context for childhood obesity and long term conditions (including rare disorders) including the health status of child and adult household members using data from north east London as well as Wales.

We will be combining health data science with qualitative real world studies to understand decision-making about food and activity as well as food insecurity in a household context using semi-structured interviews in patients of GP practices in Tower Hamlets.

Professor Carol Dezateux

Carol is a member of Health Data Research UK and associated collaborative networks through which REAL Child Health findings can be replicated and scaled.

Her research takes a life course perspective and addresses early life influences on children's health and the effectiveness of clinical and public health strategies to improve their health, using information from prospective large-scale population and patient cohort studies and linked electronic health records. Her current research focusses on childhood obesity, and the outcomes of newborn screening programmes.


Dr Gill Harper

Gill is a health data scientist and UKRI Innovation Fellow specialising in health geography and use of routinely collected data. Gill’s research interest is in the wider determinants of health, in particular, the effect of the household and individual level geography and environment on health behaviours and outcomes. Gill’s research aims to introduce this granular scale of geography directly to individuals’ Electronic Health Records to support impactful use cases.


Nicola Firman

Nicola is a health data scientist and PhD student whose work focuses on using electronic health records to assess childhood obesity and its related health outcomes in an ethnically diverse child population. To date, her work has included analyses of longitudinal data to establish whether there are ethnic patterns in parental concern about childhood obesity, and now focuses on understanding the morbidities and consultation patterns of obese children and their families in east London.


Dr Meredith Hawking

Meredith is a research fellow specialising in qualitative and narrative methods. Drawing on her background in social science and public health, her research explores the collective practices households undertake in their everyday lives, and the negotiations and tensions that can arise as they balance being ‘healthy’ with other goals and commitments. Her work involves working with local families to co-produce our research and provide children with a voice in research about their health.


Dr Milena Marszalek

Milena is an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in General Practice. To date, her research interests have focussed on tackling inequalities in the context of social determinants of health. Her work within the REAL health team will focus on timeliness and equity of childhood vaccination in East London. 

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