Rosa Vaquero, Head of Communications, Guy's and St Thomas' Charity
May 14, 2019
In our work addressing complex health issues prevalent in inner-city London, we take a place-based approach. For us, this involves combining data, evidence and people’s lived experience to guide our work; building partnerships and working at different scales to drive impact.
We’re interested in exploring how others view place-based approaches and their value in helping to improve people’s health in the long term.
In part one of a short blog series, we ask eight thought leaders from the worlds of health, community-building, design and more to share some of the opportunities and challenges they see for place-based approaches to make a difference to people’s health at home and abroad in the next ten years.
“Places are where life happens in all its complexity, messiness and glory. Outside interventions need to operate more through the lens of life and join up in the places where people live to be more successful. By thinking of place we can reframe many approaches to public health and leap further forward and faster than existing alternatives.”
“The challenge for place-based approaches to continue playing a crucial role in shaping health is to realise the potential of neighbourhoods that are not currently fully health producing. These neighbourhoods are not backwaters of pathologies; they are places with a huge reservoir of health creating capacity, requiring appropriate support and community building.”
“Changes to the built environment through new development or refurbishment projects offer a great opportunity to improve physical and mental health and quality of life using existing assets. Place-based approaches recognise that there are diverse needs within local communities and respond to these needs by designing and maintaining inclusive places. This could be about providing places to rest, drinking fountains or accessible toilets in public spaces. Enabling everyone to participate in their local area strengthens health, wellbeing and social cohesion.”
“By taking a place-based approach, we can look at health on a more human scale and in neighbourhoods and surroundings which are ‘natural’ to people. Through deeper engagement, we have an opportunity to use the wisdom and insight of local people to look at what change really needs to look like locally, in order to radically alter our take on health and, critically, to head ‘up-stream’ and address some of the fundamental structural inequalities - the wider social, economic, cultural and environmental factors, which cause major (and widening) health inequity in the UK. This is a shift in power which starts locally and ten years is needed to make this happen.”
“What most excites me is the possibility of opening the eyes of ordinary people to how their surroundings are constantly shaping their health and wellbeing, and in turn those people taking an active role in shaping their surroundings. To my mind that feels like at least a two-part journey; firstly giving people new and interesting ways of interacting with their local area (such as getting involved in their local GoodGym), and secondly giving them the tools to improve the positive things and challenge the negative.”
“A place-based approach allows us to tackle many health issues in a joined-up way. It prompts us to find ways to get better results from the aspirations, energy, money and time that are already running through an area. Over the next 10 years, place-based approaches could be one of the main ways that we help people live in good health – and potentially nurture the local environment and economy in the process.”
Rachel Toms, who is a healthy place-making specialist and runs Public Health England’s housing and health programme.
“Acknowledgment of the powerful health effects of social and economic forces is becoming widespread, but we have much to learn about how to integrate social and economic interventions at the individual, institutional and community level and about how to align financial and professional interests to achieve success. The next ten years of work in this area will be redefined by a new paradigm, centered around our growing understanding of how this ecosystem of forces and behaviors and environments shapes the health of communities and individuals.”
Raymond J. Baxter, Ph.D, President and CEO of Blue Shield of California Foundation, an American health foundation.
"The development of our proposals for Bermondsey demonstrated the importance of identifying the specific needs and aspirations of a place and its community. This detailed understanding of ‘place’ will enable us to deliver relevant social value, which we believe is crucial to improving the health of a community. In doing so, we recognise the various measures of a ‘healthy community’ that can include obvious indicators such as people being active or eating healthy, as well as things such as a thriving local economy, high levels of social integration and access to good quality education or secure employment."
We have been working in our place in South London for over 500 years. Since 2017, we've taken a more focused approach – engaging with the specificity of our area, its assets and challenges – to draw richer insights on complex health issues.
23 April, 2020
As a funder, our priority is to support our partners and the communities most affected by COVID-19. Our Portfolio Director, Louise Mousseau, sets out the actions we've taken to date and how we're adapting our work in response to a changing environment.