Shaping places for healthier lives

The LGA and The Health Foundation have launched a new programme aimed at tackling health inequalities.

Everyone deserves to be able to live a long and healthy life, no matter where they live. 

COVID-19 has tragically exposed and exacerbated our deep-rooted health inequalities, which need to be urgently addressed if we are to level up our communities for the future.

Importantly, because of the pandemic, we are all more aware of what is meant by health inequalities and the ways in which they impact on people’s lives. 

The strongest determinants of our health are the social, economic, commercial and environmental conditions in which we live – for example, whether our homes are overcrowded, where we go to school, what jobs are open to us locally, and if we have a park nearby.

These wider determinants of health are multiple, diverse, and interrelated factors that shape the health of people in an area. Creating the conditions for better health in local places requires system-wide partnership action on these wider factors.

It is vital we act to reduce inequalities, prevent poor health and improve people’s opportunities for better health – which is the aim of our Shaping Places for Healthier Lives Programme (2021).

Working in partnership with The Health Foundation, the LGA is supporting five council-led partnerships to tackle the wider determinants of health, and to share learning about effective ways of shaping places for healthier lives for all, across complex systems.

The aim is to make sustainable changes to local systems, which are consistent with improved population health, and designed to last beyond the lifetime of the programme.

The five councils – Doncaster Council, London Borough of Newham, Northumberland County Council, and Shropshire Council, plus a joint partnership with Bristol City, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils – will each receive £300,000 over three years. 

The councils will use a ‘complex systems’ approach to address topics such as food insecurity, mental wellbeing, and crime and anti-social behaviour, in their local areas. 

They have set out clear plans as to what they are planning to achieve over the next three years, including working with local partnerships (like other councils, public health departments, NHS services and local and national charities) towards their common goals, and looking at why previous interventions may not have been successful along with evidence of what is currently working.

Learning from the councils’ work will be shared with a host of organisations including public health bodies, local partnerships, academics, council partners, health and housing organisations, care and health charities, the police and employment centres via the LGA’s website, The Health Foundation, and a Shaping Places for Healthier Lives learning network.

This programme is an important first step in finding new ways to influence the social determinants of health, such as food poverty, anti-social behaviour and mental health services, which can make the difference in how long someone can live healthily while reducing the pressure on other public services, such as the NHS and social care.

By improving the way our systems and services work together, we can encourage new ideas and finally help reduce the healthy life expectancy gap between those in the least and most deprived areas.

Author

To find out more about the Shaping Places for Healthier Lives Programme, please visit www.local.gov.uk/shaping-places-healthier-lives-about-programme, or email SPHL@local.gov.uk. The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and care for people in the UK, see www.health.org.uk

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