UK Data Service Data Impact Fellows 2023: Niloofar Shoari

We are delighted to announce Niloofar Shoari as one of our Data Impact Fellows for 2023. In this post Niloofar shares a bit about her background, her current work and research and what she hopes to get out of the Fellows scheme.


I am an MRC Early Career Research Fellow at the Centre for Environment and Health, Imperial College London. Broadly speaking, my research is at the intersection of environmental sciences and public health, with a particular focus on the application of Bayesian methods in this area. I am interested in understanding the long-term health effects of neighbourhood-level environmental exposures among children and young people. I mainly use data from Millennium Cohort Study and National pupil Database held at the UK Data Service.

Prior to my current position, I worked in the Global Environmental Health research group, a world-leading research hub for urban health and inequalities. I have contributed to understanding the impact of environmental factors in child-specific urban settings. For example, I evaluated open and green space in London schools and their variations and inequalities by school-level socioeconomic status. This research, in collaboration with Public Health England, discusses significant health implications of the school environment, and proposes a series of policy options to make schools healthier for all children. This work also provides an interactive map showing the area of open (non-built-up) space and green space in schools in Greater London.

I completed my PhD in Environmental Engineering at University of Quebec (Canada), where I worked on the quantitative analysis of soil contamination data and developed guidelines for engineers and policy-makers as to how to deal with the below detection limit concentrations that are ubiquitous in environmental data, biomarkers and occupational health studies. My fascination with statistical modelling and coding encouraged me to seek formal statistical training. I became a visiting scholar at the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics (University of Waterloo, Canada, and Texas A&M University, USA). I completed my MSc and BSc in Environmental Engineering at La Sapienza University of Rome (Italy).

My research

The places we live in shape our lives through exposure to various environmental factors. My research seeks to understand how our health is affected by our neighbourhood’s physical and social characteristics. Exposure to neighbourhood-level characteristics is not equally distributed, and their cumulative effect is often unknown. A major step change to reduce inequalities will best be realized by designing dynamic and flexible policy interventions that are tailored to priories and local conditions while considering the above risk factors as a whole.

My current work relates to exploring the role of neighbourhoods in shaping children and young people’s physical and mental health, with a particular focus on the impact of deprivation. Specifically, I investigate how deprivation modifies the level of exposure to urban factors such as air pollution and access to greenspace, and how it leads to health inequalities during childhood and later in life. The core part of my research is to pinpoint inequalities and help create healthy and equal places for every child. In one of my recent works, I present a tool to characterize exposure to multiple urban environment features, including air pollution, access to public greenspace, food environment, and road safety within 400-meter (5–10 minute walking distance) of 2,929 schools in Greater London. Socioeconomic and ethnicity disparities were observed in relation to exposure to the aforementioned urban factors.

Future plans

My research will be more focused on investigating the pattern of mental health issue among children and young people across the UK, as well as identifying the contributing and protective factors in an urban setting. I hope to use my UK Data Service Data Impact Fellowship to contribute to shaping policies and practices aimed at addressing mental health and inequalities in the UK. Additionally, I would like to host a seminar to bring together researchers from multiple disciplines to discuss the advances and challenges in the area of child mental health in the UK and collaborate on high-impact research.

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