Glasgow City Region wins funding to put population health at the centre of capital spend decisions

Glasgow City Region has been selected by the Health Foundation, an independent charity, to be part of its new funding programme aimed at strengthening relationships between economic development and health.

The Economies for Healthier Lives programme is providing a total of £2.1 million to support four partnerships from across the UK, of which Glasgow City Region (GCR) is one, for up to three years. The partnerships, each led by a local authority or at city region level, bring together a range of organisations, including academics, practitioners, business and the community.

The project being developed by Glasgow City Region, supported by £347,000 of funding, seeks to improve population health and reduce health inequalities by building routine assessment of the likely health outcomes into all large capital spend projects across the City Region.

Councillor Susan Aitken, Chair of the Glasgow City Region Cabinet and Leader of Glasgow City Council said:

“Glasgow City Region has a long history of economic and health inequality. Local large-scale investment has often focused on physical regeneration and economic outcomes. We need a new approach that considers the likely health, wellbeing and inequality outcomes of large-scale capital infrastructure spend.” 

GCR will deliver the project working in partnership with the Glasgow Centre for Population and Health (GCPH) and Public Health Scotland. The project will create an innovative new toolkit which, once tested, will be used in the development and delivery of capital infrastructure projects at all stages (from initial project scope to delivery and operation) and will ensure that decisions made at every level focus on maximising benefits for better and more equal population health.

There will be a four-stage approach to the project’s development with the first stage looking at current decision-making processes on Regional large-scale capital infrastructure projects. Building on this, stage two will use learning gained to develop the new ‘Capital Investment Health Inequalities Impact Assessment’ (CHIIA) tool and test it on projects of various sizes, types and stages of development. This will include piloting the tool on the Glasgow City Region Housing Retrofit programme, a proposed £10 billion scheme to insulate homes across the Region. The third stage will be about making changes to the tool based on the learning and putting it into everyday practice, through training users and continued monitoring. Finally, stage four will involve bringing together all the project learning and sharing this widely across Scotland and the rest of the UK.   

Evaluation of the project will be ongoing and will be undertaken by GCPH. It will answer ‘how’ questions and assess the potential impacts of changes made to projects following the application of the tool.   

Continued Councillor Aitken:

“The core ethos of our GCR partnership’s economic ambition and duty is to deliver inclusive economic growth where all people and communities are able to share in and benefit from the prosperity.

“I strongly endorse the development of a toolkit which would ensure that we continue to be mindful of this imperative. With our current City Deal investment and other planned large-scale programmes, there is an enormous opportunity in the next few years to make a step change in outcomes for healthier, happier, safer and more sustainable communities.”

Claire Sweeney, Director of Place and Wellbeing at Public Health Scotland, said:

“Public Health Scotland’s mission is to support long-lasting good health and wellbeing in all our communities – especially the most disadvantaged. Local government is responsible for many of the foundations of community health and wellbeing, and this project will help create the economic conditions which enable better population health outcomes across the Glasgow City Region.   

“We welcome the award of this funding from the Health Foundation, and are delighted to be working collaboratively to deliver this innovative project. We will support the partnership to apply evidence-based interventions, to realise the potential impact of economic development in improving health, mitigating health inequalities and helping people and communities thrive.”

The Health Foundation will support the partnerships to integrate economic development activity with work to improve health and/or reduce health inequalities. The RSA will provide learning support for each of the projects.

Sharlene McGee, Policy Manager at the Health Foundation said:

“As we seek to rebuild the economy post-pandemic and ‘level up’ UK regions, there is an opportunity to create more inclusive economies geared towards reducing inequalities and improving health. These innovative projects will show how joint action across economics and health can help our communities to thrive. Economies for Healthier Lives will provide valuable evidence for local authorities and central government, to help inform how local areas across the UK can take steps to ‘level up’ their health and economies.”

Susan Manion, Interim Director at GCPH added: “The Glasgow Centre for Population Health is delighted to be the evaluation partner in Glasgow City Region’s work to put population health at the centre of capital spend decision-making. The Health Foundation’s Economies for Healthier Lives Programme aligns strongly with the work of the GCPH in recognising that economic factors are one of the biggest determinants of health and equality outcomes. We look forward to exploring how to embed new approaches to ensure that the work makes a real difference, and to sharing this learning widely.”