Using data mining to Do things better

– By Billiejoe Charlton, KTP Associate, Do Something Different

As part of my KTP work with Do Something Different Ltd and University of Brighton, I recently attended and presented a paper at the 7th International Digital Health Conference in London [link: ]. Held at 30 Euston Square – the headquarters of the Royal College of General Practitioners – the conference offered the opportunity to disseminate the scientific findings from my KTP project to an interested and knowledgeable audience, and raise awareness of the vital work that Do Something Different [] is doing to help people change their lives for the better. It was also a wonderful chance to network with like-minded professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds, and learn about exciting new developments in the field of Digital Health.

The theme of the conference was “Global Public Health, Personalised Medicine, and Emergency Medicine in the Age of Big Data”, and it attracted experts from many fields, including medicine, disaster management, sensor technologies, data mining and social marketing. Kicking things off was Dr Oliver Morgan from the World Health Organisation, whose fascinating keynote asked, “How can we make better use of data to protect people’s health and save lives?”. Dr Morgan described the WHO’s development of a new global surveillance system for disease outbreaks, which will bring together data from national public health systems as well as from less structured sources such as news and social media reports. This set the tone for an event where the focus was firmly on using emerging technologies not for the accumulation of profit but for the benefit of all.

The research I presented is about how we have used data mining techniques to improve the behaviour change programmes delivered by Do Something Different. Each such programme consists of a series of personalised “Dos” – small recommended activities to help people practice behaving in new ways and break their habits. These behavioural prompts are delivered by a smartphone app, or by SMS or email. The approach is based on decades of psychological research, and programmes have been designed to address many personal development goals, such as smoking cessation, stress reduction, better diabetes self-management, leadership skills and so on.

A slide from my presentation: Dos are prompts for small actions, delivered by smartphone, designed to help people change their behaviour.


In our research we have applied data mining techniques to interaction data and psychological questionnaires from a sample of Do Something Different’s users. Our data set included information about 15,550 people who have taken part in a Do Something Different programme. Using correlation networks and regression models, we were able to construct a new, more precise model of the connections between the behaviours promoted by Do Something Different and a person’s wellbeing and happiness. This has led us to refine the contents of the programmes. The paper, titled Using Data Mining to Refine Digital Behaviour Change Interventions [link: ], is co-authored with John Kingston, Miltos Petridis and Ben (C) Fletcher. Interested readers can try out Do Something Different today by going to

My presentation was in a session on Study Metholodogies, which also featured a fantastic talk by Emily Keane from charity Save The Children, about the use of a smartphone app in the treatment of malnourished children in Africa. The app replaces paper-based child registers for recording data, and guides the health worker step-by-step through the treatment protocol, so that no steps are inadvertently missed. Video illustrations show how to correctly measure a child’s mid upper arm circumference, a key indicator in assessing nutrition, which is frequently performed incorrectly.

Away from the talks, some exciting technology was on display. I was particularly impressed by the system (, a “chatbot” advice tool that offers free and anonymous advice about sexual health and STI testing to young people, based on clinical guidelines. The developers note that “over 20 years of experience in one-on-one counseling via telephone, e-mail and direct message chat about STIs, HIV, testing and prevention were manually translated into structured responses to common questions”. This approach was thought-provoking for me, as Do Something Different is currently exploring ways to improve its user interaction experience.

I returned from the conference having made useful contacts, and more motivated than ever to work on my KTP project, where we are continually looking for new ways to use technology to help people make the changes they want in their lives, and be happier and more fulfilled. I hope to attend the conference again next year, and present further discoveries from analysing data about behaviour change.

– Billiejoe Charlton, KTP Associate, Do Something Different

The KTP Associate Conference 2015

The KTP Associates Conference has been hosted successfully at the University of Brighton for a number of years, providing a great opportunity to celebrate the successes of KTP and provide networking and presentation opportunities for Associates.

This year’s 2015 Conference marked the beginning of a new era for the event which has been handed over to the KTP community and will be hosted by a different UK university each year.

This year, the Conference was hosted by the West of Scotland KTP Centre, at the University of Strathclyde’s newly opened Technology and Innovation Centre.

Sue Fleming and the five University of Brighton Associates who travelled to Glasgow to attend the event

Around 130 people registered to attend, including 20 oral presentations and 35 poster presentations. The quality and variety of both presentations and posters was impressive and inspiring, really demonstrating that KTP delivers fantastic outcomes for all three partners – the companies, the universities, and of course, the Associates.

We were particularly delighted that one of the University of Brighton’s Associates, Andrew Black, was awarded the best poster prize, against stiff competition from over 35 other posters presented at the event. Andrew’s KTP is with Hove-based Class Of Their Own – one of the UK’s largest out of school care provider – on a 2 year strategic marketing project in which knowledge from a team from the Brighton Business School, led by Senior Lecturer Jane Priddis, will be transferred to guide research to underpin the growth of the business by developing additional complementary services and expanding into new geographical areas.

Tanya Petherick, Director at Class Of Their Own says “We are delighted that Andrew won the recent poster competition.  Andrew worked extremely hard to create an eye-catching, easy to understand poster and developed an engaging short presentation about the project.  So far we have been extremely impressed with the entire KTP process.  In Andrew, we have an Associate who is the perfect fit for our company – he is bursting with enthusiasm yet not afraid to spend time gathering data for our internal marketing audit.  We have had incredible support from the University of Brighton and KTP Adviser.  All in all, we’re very happy not only to win the poster competition but to be part of the KTP process.”

Andrew Black receiving his prize for Best PosterAndrew Black - KTP Associates Conference Poster Winner 2015

Andrew Black receiving his award for Best Poster presentation.

Andrew said: “The conference was a fun opportunity to meet new ‘KTP-ers’ from all over the country, as well as catching up with friends from my KTP residential training modules.  It was really useful with some really interesting presentations; especially showing just how diverse the different kinds of KTP projects are! Winning the poster competition was great! I find my KTP really exciting and it’s nice to know other people do too!”

Sue Fleming joined the five Associates from the University of Brighton who travelled up to Scotland to attend and support the event, and who between them, delivered one oral presentation and four poster presentations.

The 2016 Conference will be hosted by Coventry University and we look forward to seeing the Conference grow from strength to strength, and to celebrating more KTP Associate successes.

Audience KTPAC2015 1 FBarari poster (2)   Image by Guy Hinks. St George Square