The announcement was made as part of a Google Digital Garage event held today (Thursday 1 February) at Sheffield Hallam University’s world-leading Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC), where the Digital Health Hub is based.
Led by Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, the £4m South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub aims to improve peoples’ health and quality of life by creating innovative digital health tools that fuse data from daily life activities with NHS data.
As part of this, the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub will work with Google on a series of pioneering research opportunities. The first of these - the PUMAS study - aims to understand whether Pixel smartphone sensors that detect light, radar, and electrical signals from the heart could aid the detection of common conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and chronic kidney disease. Early detection of these conditions could help people to make informed lifestyle choices which could slow down and even in some cases prevent their progression.
Addressing health inequalities
The first study of its kind, looking at how digital technologies could transform the way that people interact with their health, has the potential to save lives, improve health outcomes and free up valuable NHS resources.
Steve Haake OBE, Professor of Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University and Deputy Director of the Digital Health Hub, said: “Our vision is to develop digital health tools that incorporate information from daily life to help patients and healthcare professionals make the right decisions at the right time.
“I am delighted that Sheffield Hallam University is working in partnership with the University of Sheffield and with industry partners like Google; together, we will use the Digital Health Hub to try to help solve one of the biggest issues we face –how to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation. The people of South Yorkshire will be our first beneficiaries.”
As part of the Google Digital Garage event, Google announced a three-year partnership with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to fund 30 digital apprenticeships for small businesses in South Yorkshire.
More than 150 local business owners and individuals also took part in digital skills training as well as learning practical skills to enable them to capture the benefits of AI.
South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: “Google are world leaders in digital health. Our partnership is based on our shared ambition to tackle the stark health inequalities that plague our communities, using cutting edge digital tools and solutions to address long-term problems.
“I refuse to accept that a baby born in Rotherham today is likely to live a life that is five years shorter than a baby born in a wealthy part of London. I know Google do too. That is why this investment from Google is so important; because it both reflects and reinforces our commitment to dramatically improving health outcomes across South Yorkshire, as we continue to make progress towards our goal of becoming the healthiest region in the country.”
VP and Managing Director for Google UK and Ireland, Debbie Weinstein, said: “We’re proud to be supporting South Yorkshire’s academic, medical and local government institutions as they explore how the technology could improve quality of life, alleviate NHS pressures and drive economic growth.
“Technology has the power to transform the nation’s health and we recognize the need for an approach that unlocks both the innovative technical tools and the skills needed to implement these solutions. That’s why we’re excited to have this opportunity to invest in this cross-sector collaboration which we hope will drive lasting change and serve as a proof of concept for other regions across the UK.”
With South Yorkshire set to become the UK’s first Investment Zone, creating an expected 8,000 new jobs and bringing £1.2bn of private investment by 2030, the Digital Health Hub is well-timed to build on momentum within the region’s fast-evolving cluster of digital health innovation. It is based at Sheffield Hallam’s cutting-edge Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, which forms the centrepiece of Sheffield Hallam’s Health Innovation Campus.