The network that helps connect people to medical services has a growing interest in the impact of food insecurity on the public health.
The network is one of the latest to start using its technology to help people with food-related issues.
But some experts are sceptical that its approach will be effective.
“There are a lot of people who are working to create solutions to food insecurity that are not using the technology to identify people,” said John Tackett, the CEO of Community Health Network UK.
“The problem is, if they can’t do it, they are not doing it.
And the people who need help are not getting help.”
The Health and Social Care Information Centre, which is part of the Network, is using data from its community health networks to help doctors better understand the impact food insecurity has on people’s health.
In a report released last month, the organisation found that for every additional 100,000 people living in the UK, there were about a 50 per cent chance that they were diagnosed with some form of food-associated illness.
“Food insecurity has been shown to increase the risk of several health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and asthma, among others,” the report said.
The findings were based on data from a cohort of more than 9,000 UK adults aged over 65 who had either been diagnosed with an illness or were known to have an illness in the past three months.
The cohort is representative of the general population.
But the researchers say there are significant gaps in the data they have on the impact that food insecurity can have on health.
“We’re not looking at the health of people on a daily basis,” Dr Tacketts said.
“What we’re looking at is people that are at risk of being overweight or obese, or have health problems, and who are at increased risk of disease, like heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer.”
There are other gaps in health data, too.
Data from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) does not allow for detailed measurements of the impact on people who have recently left the workforce, such that it is hard to determine whether a particular food-induced illness is the result of being overworked or working too hard.
The report also does not include data on people living with mental health issues.
“It’s important that we don’t underestimate the impact this is having on the health and wellbeing of the people that we’re trying to help,” said Dr Tachtt.
“You’re not going to have a huge number of people being treated in hospital or dying, but they are living in conditions that are more difficult to treat.”
Dr Tackitt said there were also concerns that some of the more high-profile organisations using community health data may not have a strong track record of using the data effectively.
“I think they are looking at this data as a way to help solve a problem that’s not going away, so that they can continue to provide services,” he said.
This week, the Network launched a project called Community Health Hubs to try to identify ways in which the health system can use the information to improve care.
Dr Tachett is also hopeful that the network can help to address the underlying problem of lack of access to food.
“If you’re trying for a cure for an illness, or you want to make sure people are getting the right help, it’s very easy to get into the wrong place by not having the right services available to those who need it,” he added.
“That’s the thing that’s missing from the system right now.
It’s a lack of understanding of the population at large.”
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