Levelling up the nation’s health needs more support than physical structures

As the gap in life expectancy for UK adults in deprived areas worsened following COVID, more support is needed to get more people active.

Calling for increased collaboration between leading experts in leisure, healthcare and mixed-use development, in a new report with the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, Places for People assess the need for a new health infrastructure within integrated communities such as gyms and walking and cycling routes to level-up the health of more communities.

With UK inequality growing, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, the disparity in physical and mental health between deprived and more privileged areas is set to become even more pronounced. The report collates insight from numerous studies highlighting the positive impact of built environment improvements, such as new cycle ways, can have on improving health but flags that without personal support and marketing campaigns, some places aren’t making the impact that they need to.


This report is released to coincide with National Fitness Week, to highlight the importance built environment professionals play in creating places where people can live more actively and healthy through improved public realm.

Places for People and the Cambridge Centre hope to offer a new way of thinking when it comes to levelling up health inequalities through place-based design.

Greg Reed, Places for People CEO comments: “At the heart of our development and regeneration work is the belief that great places can make a positive impact on people’s lives, not just through improved homes but their overall health and wellbeing. The work we have done with the Cambridge Centre brings together research to demonstrate clear evidence, both national and international, that built environment improvements can facilitate health benefits. And we can also see this in action in Sheffield where we already seeing the benefits of working closely with our residents in communities to meet their fitness needs.”

Dr Katy Karampour and Dr Gemma Burgess of the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, commented: “The findings of our report suggest that the built environment has great potential not only to improve health outcomes but also to have wider social impacts. Organisations, like Places for People, are in a pivotal position to continually create, improve, and maintain the physical environments that support communities to be healthy. However, our research shows providing the physical infrastructure may not be sufficient on its own and promoting the use of facilities through local programmes and media communication can support communities to make the most of the investment made in their local built environment.”   

Places for People are trialling the more intensive community interventions in Sheffield.

As part of National Fitness Week, Places Leisure, part of Places for People, are challenging people to get active by taking part in their 10@10 campaign. Whether it’s walking a dog or getting involved in one of their videos this campaign is set to get people moving and see the benefits of even small stints of exercise.

The report can be accessed here.

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