We know that the places in which children live, play and move shape their current and future health. For example:
- Access to local parks and woodlands influences children’s play, physical activity levels and mental health.
- Neighbourhood infrastructure can support or constrain children’s active travel to school, leisure facilities, healthcare settings and other amenities.
- Exposure to alcohol, tobacco outlets or unhealthy food and drinks advertisements can depend on the socioeconomic characteristics of where you live.
We might not realise it, but by understanding more about the role of place in children’s lives, we can start to influence and advocate for population level policy change that improves our built, natural and social environment to enhance the health of children in Scotland.
Who is this workshop for?
This participatory workshop is designed for policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and other professionals whose work or interests lie in understanding how children’s movement, mobility and experience of place can act as a lever to improving child health and reducing inequalities.
What is involved?
This in-person workshop has two sessions. The morning session aims to: i) share current Scottish policy related to places and children’s health; ii) share findings from SPACES an internationally novel longitudinal research project that aims to understand how children’s mobility and movement in their local environment shapes their health; and iii) discuss the importance of developing networks and sharing good practice. This will consist of four invited talks:
- Irene Beautyman, Place and Wellbeing Partnership Lead at the Improvement Service and Public Health Scotland
- Dr Paul McCrorie and Dr Jon Olsen, MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit
- Dr Paul Bradshaw, Director, Scottish Centre for Social Research
- Aidan Gallacher, CEO, Actify CIC
The afternoon session will consist of four themed breakout rooms. In each breakout room, participants will work together to identify and consider emerging public health questions related to the role of place on children’s health.
- Theme 1 – Physical activity, active travel and play. These are important health behaviours with strong links to positive physical and mental health and wellbeing. The way our neighbourhoods are designed impacts children mobility, whether that is walking or cycling to school, or playing in the local park. Understanding more about this can tell us how our neighbourhoods can be designed to best serve young people.
- Theme 2 – Mental health. The built, natural and social environments can influence children’s mental health, including experiences of stress, anxiety, and depression. Availability, accessibility, and exposure to natural spaces where children can play and socialise may protect their mental health, whereas poorly designed spaces that limit children’s mobility may result in poorer mental health outcomes. Understanding more about what neighbourhood characteristics support children’s mental health, how these act to influence specific mental health outcomes, and how they may differ depending on where people live, is the first stage to trying to improve them.
- Theme 3 – 20-minute neighbourhoods. Where children live and play is an important predictor of their health. Access to things like high quality public parks, woodlands and other important facilities are not equally distributed across all neighbourhoods in the country. Many children either don’t have these things physically available to them, or can’t access them easily. By understanding the relationship between access, exposure, and experience of these local amenities and young people’s health and wellbeing, we can influence the way neighbourhoods are designed.
- Theme 4 – Exposure to unhealthy commodities. The more children are exposed to shops that sell things like tobacco, alcohol, and fast food, the greater chance they are to consume those products. Consumption might be better or worse for certain groups of young people. By understanding more about this, we can argue for change to where shops are allowed to open, and restrictions on how they advertise and sell their potentially unhealthy products.
After the event, discussions from these four breakout rooms will be synthesised and prioritised to develop a co-produced research-policy agenda that will act as a catalyst for further research with the aim of informing policy and reducing child health inequalities.