Background Improved data linkages between diverse environment and health datasets have the potential to provide new insights into the health impacts of environmental exposures, including complex climate change processes. Initiatives that link and explore big data in the environment and health arenas are now being established. Objectives To encourage advances in this nascent field, this article documents the development of a web browser application to facilitate such future research, the challenges encountered to date, and how they were addressed. Methods A ‘storyboard approach’ was used to aid the initial design and development of the application. The application followed a 3-tier architecture: a spatial database server for storing and querying data, server-side code for processing and running models, and client-side browser code for user interaction and for displaying data and results. The browser was validated by reproducing previously published results from a regression analysis of time-series datasets of daily mortality, air pollution and temperature in London. Results Data visualisation and analysis options of the application are presented. The main factors that shaped the development of the browser were: accessibility, open-source software, flexibility, efficiency, user-friendliness, licensing restrictions and data confidentiality, visualisation limitations, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability. Conclusions Creating dedicated data and analysis resources, such as the one described here, will become an increasingly vital step in improving understanding of the complex interconnections between the environment and human health and wellbeing, whilst still ensuring appropriate confidentiality safeguards. The issues raised in this paper can inform the future development of similar tools by other researchers working in this field.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The research was funded in part by the UK Medical Research Council (MRC) and UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for the MEDMI Project; the National Institute for Health Research ( MR/K019341/1 ) Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Environmental Change and Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in partnership with Public Health England (PHE), and in collaboration with the University of Exeter, University College London, and the Met Office; and the European Regional Development Fund Programme and European Social Fund Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (University of Exeter Medical School).
- Big data
- Browser application
- Climate change
- Human health
- Time-series regression