Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity tackles major urban health issues with advanced mapping capabilities in Tableau


Actionable insights on childhood obesity discovered in minutes versus weeks
Mapping capabilities pinpoint specific areas of risk, leading to a more targeted, rapid response
Tableau Online improves transparency and accountability of £250m charitable spend

Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is an independent, urban health foundation, working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to improve health in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. The Charity has standardised on the powerful, secure and flexible Tableau analytics platform to rapidly share and collaborate on data and insights. This is enabling the Charity to identify the areas within the two boroughs with the greatest density of health problems – and target the appropriate resources more effectively. Simultaneously, the simple, transparent insights are focusing the way their endowment is spent in pursuit of improved health. Up-to-the-minute analyses and findings are also being shared with partners, the general public and others working on similar initiatives for further enhanced health outcomes.

Tableau has enabled us to discover genuine insights into childhood obesity across the boroughs.

Speed to insight cut from weeks to minutes with self-service analytics

Over the next decade, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is spending approximately quarter of a billion GBP in tackling complex health issues and improving the livelihood of local residents.

As part of a new forward-thinking strategy, the Charity is focusing its resources on the most prominent health issues that are impacting lives in the two London boroughs, including childhood obesity.

A primary challenge for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity is to identify regions in the greatest need of charitable support and allocate budget and resources accordingly. “We need to answer questions like, ‘Which are the priority locations for these projects?’ and ‘How should we pool our resources?’,” explains Rob Parker, Head of Data and Analytics at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity. “There’s no doubt that data plays a vital role in answering these questions."

Until recently, Rob and his team relied on traditional means to identify the areas within Lambeth and Southwark most in need of attention. “The CEO of the Charity asked me where we should begin our childhood obesity programme, so I went away and built some scatter points in Excel. This gave us some basic insight into childhood obesity across neighbourhoods, which we correlated against other measures, such as income and deprivation,” he says.

However, the drawbacks to this reliance on Excel quickly became apparent. “Once we shared this basic insight across the Charity, we quickly received follow-up questions regarding the significance of individual points in the diagram. We could just about provide this extra level of insight using Excel, but it was very slow and time-consuming,” says Rob.

Several colleagues recommended Tableau as a solution. Rob was converted immediately. “I had a play-around with the free version of Tableau on a Sunday morning, and quickly created a completely different view of the data. I could reach a scatter point and if someone asked ‘what’s that point?’, I could say ‘that’s Camberwell Green’. These immediate insights radically changed the way we work.”

Using the latest inbuilt maps and the new hyper files, Tableau gave us answers to our questions within 20 minutes. It’s incredible how easy it was to do.

Advanced mapping capabilities identify areas of greatest need

This ability to connect and collaborate on the interactive maps is generating valuable, transparent intelligence into childhood obesity. Rob explains, “Tableau has enabled us to discover genuine insights into childhood obesity across the boroughs. For example, if you take the top 12 wards by childhood obesity and map them, it’s immediately apparent that those wards are right next to each other.”

For its childhood obesity programme, the Charity specifically needed to identify the streets in Lambeth and Southwark with the highest rates of childhood obesity. That meant bringing together multiple different datasets to define the target region.

“We wanted areas with very high levels of childhood obesity, areas with a large number of retail food outlets – because that’s who we’ll work with – we wanted some schools in the target region and we also wanted to analyse certain bus stops,” says Rob. “Using the latest inbuilt maps and the new hyper files, Tableau gave us answers to our questions within 20 minutes. It’s incredible how easy it was to do.”

By pinpointing the precise location of each problem area, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity has been able expand their programmes more rapidly – and to where they are needed most. This is imperative since the Charity’s strategy calls for 70% of the resources allocated to a problem area to be used within that region – they are now operating at over 80%.

Moreover, the integration of the Charity’s Salesforce application with Tableau is helping to validate that spend. “We have data in Salesforce that shows where we spend our money, which we’ve mapped in Tableau,” explains Rob. “We also have a map of where we’ve identified need. Those two maps are very, very similar.”

The visual nature of the maps provides a simple, persuasive means of validating our investment. It enables us to explain to interested parties why we have funded one project over another, improving our accountability.

Sharing insights through Tableau Online improves transparency and accountability

The new maps also provide valuable input into Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity’s accountability reports. “The visual nature of the maps provides a simple, persuasive means of validating our investment. It enables us to explain to interested parties why we have funded one project over another, improving our accountability.”

The entire organisation is now connected to the universal Tableau reporting system. “Our trustees now have access to the financial data they need through Tableau Online. They can select the information they find interesting, in the level of detail they find interesting,” says Rob.

Looking ahead, Rob and his team plan on using Tableau to better inform partners as well as the general public on current analyses and findings. “We are now exploring how we can use Tableau Public to share that information more broadly with other interested parties. After all, the insights we are revealing may be useful to individuals working on similar social initiatives.”

Learn more about Guy's and St Thomas' Charity's mission on Rob Parker's Tableau Public profile.