The spaces we live in affect how we travel, exercise, eat, socialise and interact. Deprived areas are often more unhealthy environments for children and young people, with physical infrastructure that makes it more difficult to be healthy, for example its harder to be physically active when there are busy roads or few open and green spaces. We know that poorly designed neighbourhoods affect our physical health and mental health, as well as making it difficult to be socially connected or to make the most of community assets such as arts, culture, parks, leisure centres, volunteer associations, social and community groups. Making local ‘places’ better will help the people living there to live healthier and happier lives.
The Healthy Places theme is led by Professor Nicola Christie and Professor Laura Vaughan from University College London (UCL). Nicola is a transport and safety expert, while Laura is an urban design and space syntax expert. Other key ActEarly people working in this theme are Dr Rosie McEachan from the Born in Bradford project (who leads on co-production for ActEarly), Dr Marcella Ucci – a housing expert from UCL, and Professor Nicholas Pleace, a social housing expert from University of York, and Dr Daisy Fancourt, an expert on health and cultural interaction (UCL). Adriana Ortegon is a full-time research associate supporting the theme, while Dr Ashley Dhanani, an expert on active travel from the UCL Urban Dynamics Lab, is also part of the team.
We are working with public bodies in both the Bradford and Tower Hamlets (London) sites to evaluate the impact on young people’s health in a number of projects, which range from slowing traffic around schools to 20 mph, to asking families how their children get to school (and how they might be encouraged to walk more around their neighbourhoods, whether to go to an exhibition, or to visit a playground. We’re also developing projects that will measure the impact on children and young people of improving air quality as well as the impact on families in providing better information on housing, or regulating housing providers.