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DataIQ Awards 2021 winner – Best use of data for not-for-profit or non-commercial purposes: ZOE

DataIQ Awards 2021 winner - Best use of data for not-for-profit or non-commercial purposes: ZOE

At the beginning of the pandemic, health science start-up ZOE was solely dedicated to nutrition. As the virus gripped the UK in 2020, the company decided to leverage its existing technology and deployed 15 ZOE members to help fight the crisis. The team worked at pace to build the ZOE Covid Symptom Study App over just one weekend. By combining the app with epidemiological research, the not-for-profit initiative has grown to become the largest community-led Covid-19 study in the world.

Contributors to the free application submit their personal details, including location and age, before answering questions regarding their health status. Users are then encouraged to spend a minute each day reporting their physical health. The app relays real-time information about the virus by charting and predicting its prevalence. In more recent months, users have been able to log the after-effects of vaccinations; data which has been vital to vaccine researchers at King’s College London.

More than 4.6 million people have logged approximately 321 million daily health reports, 7.1 million tests and 1.1 million vaccines onto the platform so far. Processing this data has allowed the study to produce daily case estimates, local area graphs and UK-wide infection distribution visuals. Findings from the study were among the first to confirm loss of smell and taste as a symptom of the virus, leading to an official change on the NHS symptom list. 

Through comparison with other users, ZOE’s symptoms-prediction model is able to estimate with 80% accuracy whether an untested individual is likely to have Covid-19. This non-invasive methodology revolutionised the ability to identify infections early on, giving authorities a vital head start when identifying infection hotspots. Data from the app has informed over 315 scientific papers and daily reports, providing unparalleled insights to key stakeholders, journalists and government officials.

ZOE’s small, not-for-profit team has had a profound impact on the fight against the pandemic. In recognition of the app’s contribution to health policy, the project was awarded a £2 million grant from the Department for Health and Social Care in August 2020. The data-driven study has helped government to shepherd the public through the crisis, and there is hope that the approach will be implemented for future health concerns beyond Covid-19.

DataIQ Awards 2021
Year: 2021
Category: Best Use of Data for Not-For-Profit or Non-Commercial Purposes

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