We tackle major health challenges affecting people living in urban, diverse and deprived areas
Many of our resources were left to us with the instruction to treat ‘the incurable’ health challenges of people living in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.
The nature of these challenges has changed over time. They are today as complex as they have ever been. They relate not only to people’s physical and mental health, but also to what people perceive a healthy life to be; not just to the absence of illness, but the ability to thrive.
Our perspective on health is through the combined lens of urban environment, diversity and deprivation. We believe that the cumulative impact of these three characteristics contributes to many of the worst health outcomes we see in our boroughs.
Lambeth and Southwark are extreme examples of inner-cities. Through our work, we’re learning that urban environment, diverse communities and deprived areas bring with them both assets and risk factors, which interact with each other in complex ways.
We believe that understanding better the complex interaction between urban environment, diversity and deprivation can help us unlock innovative solutions to difficult health challenges.
The impact of this interaction varies from individual to individual, in some cases amplifying or compounding each other, in others cancelling each other out. For example, we’re seeing that:
- Urban environments can provide proximity to many health services and opportunities such as employment and social activities that help people keep healthy and well. However, the city also brings with it unhealthy lifestyle opportunities, safety concerns, noise and air pollution. The busy and transient nature of the city can also be stressful and isolating.
- A diverse mix of people in terms of age, ethnicity, sexuality and culture can foster strong communities, including social and faith groups, which can provide informal networks and support. However, it also means a complex mix of specific requirements from the health system which are not always met, positioned or communicated in a way which achieves take-up. This can be compounded by language barriers and different assumptions and practices around managing health.
- Deprived areas are often unhealthy settings, with poor quality housing and high air pollution. For many, the high living costs in cities mean needing to focus on making ends meet rather than keeping healthy. Instability of housing has a significant impact on people’s ability to establish and maintain social support networks. However, deprivation does not automatically equate to ill health - resilient behaviours and aspirations play a role in keeping people well.
Learn more in our report on Personal perspectives on urban health.
Lambeth and Southwark have a lot in common with other areas, not just in London but around the UK and internationally. We believe we have a unique chance to collaborate with and learn from others who share our interests, and do something different together. We want our work to be led by evidence and to offer new insights.