Our Healthy Place Shaping approach

There is growing evidence that there are significant benefits for local people by taking an approach to planning housing, infrastructure, and the economy, with health and wellbeing as the centre of focus. This approach is known as 'Healthy Place Shaping.'

Ansaf Azhar, Director of Public Health: Oxfordshire County Council

Introducing Healthy Place Shaping

Healthy Place Shaping Oxfordshire aims to create: sustainable, well designed and thriving communities, which provide a sense of belonging, and where all residents are supported to live healthier and happier lives. The approach was developed in Oxfordshire growing out from the work of the Barton and Bicester Healthy New Town programmes.

From that work grew the three branches of Healthy Place Shaping:

  • Built Environment: shaping our local environment so that homes are healthier, people can easily access green spaces and are able to walk, cycle and socially interact
  • Community activation: we want to work with and through local people, businesses, community groups and schools to empower communities to create their own lasting change. We will support healthy choices, being active and feeling safe and connected.
  • New models of care: re-shaping and developing health, wellbeing and care services. Supporting local people to know how best to look after their health and wellbeing.

The Healthy Place Shaping Principles

Healthy Place Shaping seeks to breakdown the principles and behaviours that lead to change and help others to apply them to their local communities and circumstances. These simplified principles are based upon the systems change behaviours identified by PHAST in their evaluation of Healthy Place Shaping.

Protect the NHS

Healthy Place Shaping means promoting healthier choices in order to prevent, reduce and delay ill health.

The impact of Covid-19 has created the awareness around the need to reduce the pressures on the national health service however the growth and impact of chronic diseases that are not passed person to person like heart disease, type-2 diabetes, cancer has been described by the World Health Organisation as a slow-motion disaster.

Build Back Fairer

Healthy Place Shaping means reducing the barriers some people face in accessing healthier choices, be they cultural, physical, social or economic.

The Marmot review on inequalities showed that over the last decade the most deprived communities have experienced a drop in healthy life expectancy.

Start with What's Strong

Healthy Place Shaping asks what's strong not what's wrong and seeks to build upon those strengths.

Communities have assets and strengths which positively contribute to people's health and wellbeing. These include individual strengths, collective strengths, social strengths and physical strengths.

Think Local

Healthy Place Shaping should not copy or duplicate something just because it has worked elsewhere rather, we should breakdown why something worked rebuild based on local circumstance and opportunities.

Your street and neighbours are different to everywhere else. What works in one place might not work the same in another.

Everything is Connected

Heathy Place Shaping recognises that a single intervention alone is unlikely to help in individual overcome all the barriers they will face in changing their behaviour.

Influences on people's behaviours include family & friends, community groups and voluntary associations, schools, businesses or charities, the built & natural environment where they live, and laws or processes set by local and national government.

Working Better Together

Healthy Place Shaping is not the domain of individual, community, team, department, or discipline. It is a collaborative approach requiring partnership working across all three branches of Healthy Place Shaping.

An example of a system that is made up of many individual parts is a bicycle. No single part of bicycle operates the system alone. The bicycle can only be ridden when all parts work together.

Healthy Place Shaping says your work may originate in one branch but should consider or seek to connect to work from other branches to address the wider social and economic factors that drive health inequalities.

This image shows how the Barton Healthy New Town visualised these connections to create a local Healthy Place Shaping Plan.

Healthy Place Shaping is now a strategic priority for Oxfordshire, it has been adopted as a guiding principle for the work of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership (formerly known as the Growth Board) and Oxfordshire's Health and Wellbeing Board.

Why this approach is so important

Healthy Place shaping also supports climate action; shaping healthy communities promotes the health and wellbeing of individuals and the planet.

The THRIVES framework from Healthy Urbanism demonstrates the link between the health of people and the health of the planet. cc by Pineo, 2020

What are we doing locally?

In Oxfordshire, we are helping people to live well by:

  • Promoting active environments to support everyday activity, i.e Build Back Fairer
  • Activating communities in the Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) ranked within the 20% most deprived nationally as identified in the JSNA as well as the key growth points across Oxfordshire, i.e Active Reach, FAST
  • Embedding the promotion of physical activity into new models of health care as part of systems change, i.e Move Together, Live Longer Better

You can find out more about how we are delivering our Healthy Place Shaping interventions by visiting our Place Based Approach section.

Cover image from Department of Health/Make Sport Fun

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