£8m to create Healthy Urban Places in Liverpool and Bradford

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have received funding to deliver a 4-year project that aims to better understand what makes places healthy and help prevent the development of illnesses. Significantly, it will invite the local community to contribute to the study that explores how the local environment impacts on health and wellbeing.

Called Healthy Urban Places, the project is funded by UKRI’s Population Health Improvement UK (PHI-UK) initiative, awarding more than £8m to Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Liverpool, and other organisations, to deliver the project by working with partners in two major northern cities – Bradford and Liverpool.

Many illnesses such as depression, respiratory and other chronic diseases can be slowed or even prevented by a supportive local environment. Professor Sarah Rodgers, and Dr Rebecca Geary from the University’s Health Inequalities Policy Research Group within the University’s Institute of Population Health have secured the funding for the Healthy Urban Places project, designed to help prevent the development of ill health and reduce inequalities.

Healthy Urban Places investigates how and why health is affected by the quality of our local environments, looking at housing and air quality, access to parks, public transport, schools, and health services etc. Its aim will be to inform and influence policy makers on decisions that improve local places for health, particularly for those who need them the most. In Liverpool and Bradford the project is supported by the respective Mayors.

Healthy Urban Places in Liverpool will generate maps, neighbourhood portraits, short films and photographs, use existing health data and add built environment data created by partners at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London (e.g. distance from home to the nearest park), focussing on characteristics prioritised by our communities. These data insights will also contribute to Liverpool’s C-GULL study – a birth cohort study designed to track the health and wellbeing of local families over time.

Professor Sarah Rodgers from the University of Liverpool and overall Liverpool lead said: “Everyone should have access to the right environments to support their health and wellbeing. The Healthy Urban Places project builds on our systems expertise at the University of Liverpool. Focusing on a whole systems approach to understand the power of local places to improve population health and reduce inequalities is particularly important for us in a region with profound health inequalities.”

‘Community collaboratives’ in Bradford and Liverpool will bring together communities, researchers, and decision-makers, to guide the work. The collaboratives will train local people to become peer researchers who will speak to residents to explore what makes a healthy place. They will work with key stakeholders and decision makers to investigate how place-based changes impact on the health of communities.

Dr Rebecca Geary, the Liverpool lead for the Healthy Urban Places community collaboratives said: “The Healthy Urban Places project will support Liverpool as an emerging City Collaboratory – a place where communities, researchers and policy makers work together to tackle determinants of health and inequalities. Through the creation of the community collaboratives, we will embed sustainable community and policy engagement into our research processes – using methods and creating spaces that support dialogue and learning together.”

More about Health Urban Places

Healthy Urban Places project builds on expertise from multi-disciplinary UK Prevention Research Partnership Consortia ActEarly (Bradford/Tower Hamlets) and GroundsWell (Liverpool, Edinburgh, Belfast). Professor Rodgers is supported by the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Northwest Coast.

It is a partnership between the Bradford Institute for Health Research (BIHR) which is based at the Trust, University College London, the Universities of Liverpool, York, Leeds and Bradford, Imperial College London, the Bradford Council Health Determinants Research Collaboration and ISGlobal, a scientific research and knowledge transfer centre dedicated to global health based in Spain.