Health systems across the globe are investing in innovative programs to reduce the burden of loneliness on individuals and the health system. However, while convening interventions around a lonely person often improves quality of life, the lonely population is hard to identify. Lonely individuals are often hiding in plain sight, with no obvious, external signs that support is needed.
The Leeds County Council in the UK uses an app to create loneliness hotspots.
An app to pinpoint loneliness
Careview is a new UK app that has revolutionized how support workers identify and connect with lonely people. The app, developed by the Urban Sustainable Development Lab and Leeds County Council, is surprisingly simple. Public health team members are greeted with a map of their nearby area. By simply tapping a heart icon, they can drop an anonymous pin and report a concern where they see signs of loneliness in the community. Signs include closed house curtains, postage piling up, or a house in disrepair.
With this data, the app creates a 'heat map' of the city, block-by-block, showcasing where loneliness is most prevalent. Careview's heat map provides social service outreach teams a more targeted focus for their resources. Previously, when teams went door-to-door to hand out flyers offering loneliness support, there was one response for every 100 flyers. Now, because the map offers a data-driven strategy for whose doors to knock on first, that number is up to 47 per 100. Since most social services operate on shoestring budgets, these warm leads have a tremendous impact.
What's next for Careview?
Careview's trial just ended in September, and Leeds is conducting a formal analysis on the pilot now (the app will remain in use in the meantime). The initial results have been promising, though. Reports of loneliness have skyrocketed, and there are numerous anecdotes of workers flagging at-risk homes that led to life-changing interventions. Further, Leeds' fire service is now looking to adapt the app for their own use, enabling citizens and workers to flag run-down buildings at-risk of fire.