How do we create health?

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In the recent annual report by the Chief Medical Advisor of Scotland, a key question was posed: how do we create health? The practice of health has often been bound up with understanding the causes of and the treatment of ill health, but how do we create health? In part, the answer is about understanding health and wellbeing as interconnected issues with how we live, and where we live. In this context, creating health is about places and environments as much as the person.

Good Places Better Health is an initiative of Scottish Government established to explore how to deliver on these ideas in practice. It works on the basis that solving Scotland’s intractable health problems requires a package of preventative measures, which must include key components on environment and place.

Diarmaid Lawlor, Head of Urbanism at A&DS sat on the evaluation group to Good Places Better Health. The report of the prototype phase of the project has been published. The report is a set of findings of a prototype which sought to explore how place and environment inform and influence four health outcomes in children: asthma, obesity, accidental injury and wellbeing. The prototype was a means of looking at the interconnected nature of how better health outcomes could be achieved. In this context, it was an approach which sought to bring a range of people, research and practice together, a holistic approach to people and place.

Good Places Better Health for Scotland’s Children’ contains the main findings and recommendations of the prototype phase. There are three main themes within the report, housing, transport and neighbourhoods. These themes emerged as the particular aspects of place that were of most relevant to children. The themes were explored on their own, and in a cross cutting way. The report contains a summary of the key findings and the evidence base to support these findings. Taken as a whole, this is a valuable set of resources to inform the practice of better placemaking in Scotland.

Good Places Better Health is an important part of looking at how a place can help achieve better outcomes for the people in that place. It is proactive in that its focus is about creating better, not just mitigating the worst effects. It is cross cutting and place based. In this context, the report is a useful and important contribution to the debate about achieving preventative spend in reality. The Urbanism, Health and Schools programmes have collaborated on methods and approaches to briefing better places to achieve better outcomes. This includes work such as Learning Towns, collaborations on healthy neighbourhoods and planning for healthy places by looking creatively at local assets. We look forward to working with the spirit of Good Places Better Health to developing these approaches further.


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