Father with his daughter on his shoulders

Multiple long-term conditions

Health and neighbourhoods

Exploring how the places where we live impact our health

Introduction

In our home in South London, where areas of affluence and poverty exist side by side and health inequalities between neighbouring communities are stark, we see every day the close links between health and the neighbourhoods we live in.

Urban neighbourhoods can offer secure housing, good local employment opportunities and a sense of tight knit community and security – all of which are good for our health. At the same time, urban places can threaten our health and wellbeing, through risks such as insecure housing, noise, fear of crime, transient population and social isolation.

Creating healthier urban places relies, in part, on investment in civic infrastructure. A neighbourhood with effective civic infrastructure provides public spaces, buildings and facilities for people to gather, access to economic opportunities and chances for the community to shape decisions that affect them.

These assets connect working-age adults with the places in which they live and are essential for our wellbeing, offering strong foundations from which to prevent the progression from one to many long-term conditions. Yet they are often under-resourced and overlooked by policy makers. We invest in these foundations through our neighbourhood schemes, to empower communities and shrink health inequities.

Focus on place

Our work is focused in five neighbourhoods in Lambeth and Southwark, each of which have high levels of deprivation and ill health. Compared to other areas in the boroughs, these places rank low on civic infrastructure, social and economic opportunity and support to health. They are Clapham Park, Peckham, Stockwell, Tulse Hill and Walworth.

Because no two neighbourhoods are the same, we look at each place individually. Even though they are geographically close, neighbourhoods are distinct in terms of their ethnic mix, rates of unemployment and residents’ income.

Commonly, neighbourhoods where residents with the lowest average income live are also the ones with the worst health outcomes. People living in these neighbourhoods are at greater risk of living with multiple long-term conditions. Targeting our investments in these areas helps us ensure that we are meeting the health need precisely where it is.

Many local people haven’t had access to formal education and employment opportunities. We offer those opportunities, to learn, to grow and to develop, on your doorstep.

Graham Weston Community Action Manager, High Trees Community Development Trust

What we're doing

By collaborating with people and organisations rooted in these neighbourhoods, we build on local knowledge to ensure the unique characteristics of local people’s health guide our decision-making and that communities are fully involved in decisions that affect them. This community-led approach allows us to establish direct, effective channels to connect with people and positively influence their health.

Our neighbourhood schemes provide spaces where people can meet, build healthy relationships and form a community, as well as offering residents physical, digital and social access to the wider economy. One example of this work in action is the Walworth Living Room, led by Pembroke House, a twenty-first century settlement organisation.

The vision for this project is to create a vibrant neighbourhood facility, with a social space and community kitchen at its heart, surrounded by shared meeting and office space for local health and welfare services. Local people benefit from this dedicated public building and, by locating professional support in a trusted community hub, we are able to reach local people living with multiple long-term conditions who we previously had no direct connection with. During the COVID-19 pandemic this space has doubled as a food distribution hub for the area, attesting to its flexibility to adapt to community needs.

Our investment in neighbourhoods and in local partners, with a commitment to community organising and empowerment, is helping to tackle the social inequalities that affect health and wellbeing in our place.

Get the full report

Explore how work, money and homes can make our cities healthier and fairer

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