What is Health Acorn?
Health Acorn is a geodemographic classification tool that categorises populations residing in distinct postcodes into four groups, 25 types and 60 subtypes. Each of these has an associated profile. Geodemographic (GD) classification systems are useful for learning more about a population, enabling identification of target groups according to a range of health-related factors. They provide detail on socio-economic indicators and socio-cultural behaviour adn link that with geographical information. These classification systems rely on the concept that people who are similar live within similar communities. Nearby households in specific areas will have similar income levels and expenditure, share a similar range of lifestyles and have similar health attributes.
The Health Acorn groupings provide a picture of socio-demographics, lifestyles, culture and behaviour fro each postcode in the country. Using a postcode, it is possible to identify the lifestyle attributes of residents, for example, how much physical exercise they do, whether they smoke, have a poor diet, have a body mass index of greater than 35 (obesity) or experience long term illnesses like diabetes.
Once you have applied the Health Acorn classifications to your local population, you can compare it with the UK population to see what proportion of your local population is healthy, may have possible future concerns, future problems or currently have problems. It is worth noting that these groupings indicate attributes likely to occur more often than average in a geographical area. The descriptions do not imply that everyone in these areas exhibit each of the attributes described. It is usual to use Health Acorn (and Acorn) with other health intelligence, e.g. Index of Multiple Deprivation, to get a more accurate profile of the population under investigation.
How can Health Acorn help with public health work?
Once you have segemented the population and viewed alongside other health intelligence, you can then use the classifications to identify and plan the most effective means to encourage healthy lifestyles within that particular population. This is quite similar to the 'market potential' technique used in the retail marketing sector. You can find out all sorts of relevant pieces of information from what kind of advertising has the greatest impact to the types of illnesses for which they are admitted to hospital. This can facilitate social marketing campaigns where behaviour change to improve access to health services or raise awareness of health risks can be targeted in terms of communication channels and methods. For example, if you know that the groups most likely to default on childhood immunisations are young professionals who move around a lot, you can target your efforts to elicit a more positive response than if you did a universal intervention. This would save time and resources.