GroundsWell: Community and Data Led Systems Transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for Population Health - Consortium Development Grant (CDG)

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Centre for Public Health

Abstract

Those living in low-income areas have a much higher risk of long-term conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, depression, and frailty. Our lifestyle, such as how active we are, what we eat and if we smoke or drink alcohol in excess can greatly increase our chance of having one of these diseases. The environment that we live in, such as if we live close to or visit parks, canals, and forests, can help us live a healthier life. However, communities living in low-income areas can have poorer access to such spaces or use them less. They also have less voice in decisions affecting their local spaces, at either local or national level.

We propose a new partnership: researchers, clinicians, practitioners (such as urban designers) and policymakers all working with local citizens who have the most to benefit from better access to and use of quality spaces. We will work collaboratively to identify poor quality and underused spaces through citizen-led approaches. We will then work with them to develop and/or modify outdoor spaces so that they are high quality and fit for purpose. These actions can be as small as window boxes in schools, or as large as the development of new greenways or reshaping policies regarding land use to protect our green spaces. We will also work to identify ways in which we can promote such spaces for everyone, ensuring that no community is excluded form benefit. The important aspect is that local communities are fully involved in decisions about what they want, and what they will use, thus becoming central to the decision-making process. They will also be involved in the evaluation of these actions, enabling them to directly see how the process has benefited their communities.

An important part of putting actions and solutions in place is understanding if they work (or not). Data plays an important part in measuring success, particularly if the same data can be collected consistently across the different actions. Another part of the partnership will be establishing a way of bringing multiple sources of data together so we can effectively determine what works across multiple projects and settings. So, whilst citizens can be involved in collecting data about whether the space has improved their health and wellbeing (through a bespoke app), we can also use other data on health, wellbeing and the environment that is routinely collected by local councils and governments.

The main research will take place in three different cities - Edinburgh, Belfast and Liverpool - all with some similar features (such as large urban areas with lower income communities) and distinct features (such as geography and culture). Each city already has policies and programmes in place to improve green and blue space, but there is much room for improvement. Working with the local citizens we will test a range of different methods and approaches, and be able to collect a large amount of data. This data can then be used to understand what works for whom and why across the cities. We can then use this knowledge to predict what could be effective over a much wider area, and also what does not work. We can also make some decisions around what is good value for money, and what is not.

We also understand that individual small actions within local communities (or even within cities) are not going to solve the problem, which is why we are also going to focus on how our research can help inform future policies and programmes.

Our programme of work will take a whole life course approach which will ensure inclusive environments for all; working with our youngest citizens in particular will ensure early cultural change levers are activated, empowering a new generation with lifelong health and wellbeing.

Technical Summary

Urban blue and green space (UGBS) benefit lifelong health and wellbeing. However, due to poorly configured management systems and lack of knowledge of what works to promote use, opportunities to improve population health are missed. Our consortium will build a virtuous cycle of research, policy and practice, working with citizens who have the greatest potential to benefit from UGBS. Involving actors across the whole system, we will identify economic, social, and cultural levers that are furthest upstream, and translate evidence into system-wide UGBS interventions to improve population health in 3 cities (Belfast, Edinburgh and Liverpool). We will address our objective via 6 interacting work-packages (WP). WP1 deepens understanding of the determinants of non-use of UGBS; WP2 enables insights to flow to and from real, citizen-led, intervention development, implementation and evaluation projects; WP3 creates a dynamic flow of data between 'experts' and citizens, serving the needs of both. We will collate multiple sources of spatio-temporally coincident health, wellbeing, and environment data to enable effective, accurate real-world evaluations of UGBS; WP4 transforms our ability to economically value UGBS; WP5 explores the systems and policies that create, maintain and govern UGBS; and WP6 synthesises our evidence to simulate future interventions. Having driven environmental and societal changes, citizens will help evaluate the most effective and inclusive changes and recommend mechanisms for change to citizens in other UK cities and globally. Taking a systems approach and embedding our researchers (and vice-versa) within national and local governance, 3rd sector, and industry will ensure our research has direct policy and practice impacts. Our whole lifecourse approach will ensure inclusive environments for all and working with our youngest citizens will ensure early cultural change levers are activated, empowering a new generation with lifelong health and wellbeing.

This grant is funded by the UK Prevention Research Partnership (UKPRP) which is administered by the Medical Research Council on behalf of the UKPRP's 12 funding partners: British Heart Foundation; Cancer Research UK; Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Economic and Social Research Council; Health and Social Care Research and Development Division, Welsh Government; Health and Social Care Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland; Medical Research Council; Natural Environment Research Council; National Institute for Health Research; The Health Foundation; The Wellcome Trust.

People

ORCID iD

Ruth Hunter (Principal Investigator)
Brendan Joseph Murtagh (Co-Investigator)
Aideen Maguire (Co-Investigator)
Anna Jurek-Loughrey (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-7435-9134
REBECCA SALLY GEARY (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-1417-1057
Catharine Ward Thompson (Co-Investigator)
Sarah Rodgers (Co-Investigator)
Malcolm Gracie Semple (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9700-0418
Leandro Garcia (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-5947-2617
Alberto Longo (Co-Investigator)
Simon Maskell (Co-Investigator)
Geraint Ellis (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-4273-2923
Cornelia Guell (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0105-410X
Dominic Bryan (Co-Investigator)
Benjamin Barr (Co-Investigator)
Sarah Clement (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5422-622X
Patrycja Karolina Dabrowska-Klosinska (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3581-3226
Lewis Roland Elliott (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3864-9465
Mark Alan Green (Co-Investigator)
Richard James Mitchell (Co-Investigator)
Rhiannon Corcoran (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-8900-9199
Iain Edward Buchan (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0003-3392-1650
Sarah Louise Bell (Co-Investigator)
Benedict William Wheeler (Co-Investigator) orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-9404-5936
Frank Kee (Co-Investigator)
Ruth Jepson (Co-Investigator)
John Barry (Co-Investigator)
Tom Walker (Co-Investigator)
Rebecca Lovell (Co-Investigator)
 
Description GroundsWell Consortium
Amount £7,100,000 (GBP)
Funding ID MR/T045043/1 
Organisation Queen's University Belfast 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2021 
End 09/2026
 
Title Our OutDoors 
Description Our Outdoors is a citizen science App which aims to find out more about what you and others experience when you are in public spaces such as parks, beaches, canals, and town squares. It was developed by researchers in the Scottish Collaboration of Public Health Research and Practice (SCPRHP) at the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Sustrans, and citizens like yourself. 
Type Of Material Physiological assessment or outcome measure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Sustrans (https://www.sustrans.org.uk/) is now a major partner, and wishes to use it to characterise its cycle routes and walkways. It will also be used as a measurement and outcome tool for the GroundsWell Consortium 
URL https://www.spotteron.com/ouroutdoors/info#%2Finfo
 
Description Colorado State University [Team Science] 
Organisation Colorado State University
Country United States 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have led the development of a consortium application that has included Team Science as one element of the application.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators have provided training and intellectual input regarding Team Science and Leadership training.
Impact This collaboration has resulted in a stage 2 application to the UKPRP consortium bid.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Cranfield University [Systems Thinking and Complexity Science] 
Organisation Cranfield University
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have led the development of a consortium application that has included experts from Cranfield in systems thinking and complexity science.
Collaborator Contribution Our collaborators bring expertise in systems thinking and complexity science. Key contributions include the application of systems thinking to inform the work package integration of the consortium and governance issues.
Impact This collaboration has resulted in a published report (https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/wp-content/uploads/sites/3722/2020/12/20201202-GroundsWell-Systems-Approach.pdf) and the submission of a stage 2 consortium application to the UKPRP.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Sustrans and development of the app 
Organisation Sustrans
Department Research and Monitoring Unit
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We have been working with Sustrans to develop the App and are currently undertaking further citizen science work with seldom heard groups.
Collaborator Contribution The have contributed funds, and human resources to help make this work
Impact The citizen science App Our Outdoors https://www.spotteron.com/ouroutdoors/info#%2Finfo
Start Year 2013
 
Title OurOutdoors 
Description https://www.spotteron.com/ouroutdoors/info#%2Finfo Our Outdoors is a citizen science project which aims to find out more about what you and others experience when you are in public spaces such as parks, beaches, canals, and town squares. It was developed by researchers in the Scottish Collaboration of Public Health Research and Practice (SCPRHP) at the University of Edinburgh in partnership with Sustrans, and citizens like yourself. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2020 
Impact Is now part of the measures and tools used in GroundsWell Consortium 
URL https://www.spotteron.com/ouroutdoors/info#%2Finfo
 
Description Co-production and engagement workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact As part of the GroundsWell consortium development grant, I led a discussion with two public advisors who are part of the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Northwest Coast. This was to describe the project and involve them at at early stage in discussions about the importance of our chosen system and how it fits with other competing priorities within the urban environment.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Co-production workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We held four 1-day online participatory workshops. These included: i) systems-thinking training with research team members (10th Sept 20) facilitated by Cranfield University (see below), to ensure that systems-thinking was at the forefront of GroundsWell; ii) data challenges and solutions (2nd Oct 20) attended by multi-sectoral stakeholders from local authorities, policy, industry and research to discuss issues such as data linkage, ethical issues and methodological innovations; iii) community participation (26th Oct 20) where people from low-income communities in Belfast, Edinburgh and Liverpool discussed their participation in GroundsWell, and barriers and facilitators to co-production; iv) visioning workshop with all Consortium members (2nd Nov 20) to coalesce a multi-stakeholder vision. Activities are documented here: https://bit.ly/3gDZgxt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/work-so-far/developing-groundswell-using-systems-science/
 
Description Community conversations 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact During the CDG period (and more recently) we held 3 community conversations with members of the public and 3rd sector organisations from Liverpool, Edinburgh and Belfast to learn more about what they would want out of GroundsWell and how we could engage with them meaningfully. The participants represented a wide range of groups who could benefit from outdoor spaces, including people representing: minority ethnic groups; living with chronic conditions; low income areas; different ages and genders. The workshops were very well attended, and we got information which we used to develop the bid. They were very keen to be involved in a range of different activities, from sitting on the Community Steering Group, to writing articles, to being involved in local projects. They were keen to develop the community conversations and feel part of a community to share ideas and ideas. They contributed to the development of the websites, and are currently writing blogs and sending in details of events. These community conversations were an excellent way of understanding pathways to impact at a community level
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/work-so-far/
 
Description Connswater Community Greenway webinar series: Emotional resilience, 21 Jan 2021 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A webinar discussion with policymakers, researchers, practitioners and the general public debating the role of green spaces in developing emotional resilience during the covid pandemic.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn3xgB084FQ
 
Description Connswater Community Greenway webinar series: Energy efficiency and housing, 19 Nov 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The webinar explored energy efficiency and sustainable housing. The webinar series engaged key stakeholders and policy makers on the themes of sustainability, housing, energy and fuel. The aim of the webinars was to;
- Raise awareness of local issues with key stakeholders
- Connect decision and policy makers to local issues
- Challenge old cultures and create new attitudes
- Explore opportunities to pilot and deliver sustainable initiatives
- Discuss the impact that green infrastructure has on people and place in a city
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Connswater Community Greenway webinar series: Sustainable food and nutrition, 17 Sept 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Webinar with research, policy and practice to discuss how we can develop green spaces that provide sustainable food and nutrition for low income communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020,2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUmp-dhZEh8&t=733s
 
Description Connswater Community Greenway webinar series: Sustainable transport, 15 Oct 2020 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Webinar with research, policy and practice to discuss how we can develop sustainable and accessible transport using green spaces for low income communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svHy19gLpe0&t=12s
 
Description GroundsWell website and blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We have developed a project website and blog to provide further information regarding the consortium development phase: https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/
 
Description Systems-thinking training workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact We have been working with Cranfield University, expert in systems thinking and complexity science throughout the CDG phase. This has enabled us to enhance shared understanding of the multiple perspectives inherent across the Consortium, its partners, engaged communities and citizens, and apply a systems lens to our Consortium development, informing strategies on WP integration, governance structure, logic model development and risk mitigation. This is detailed in the following paper: https://bit.ly/3gDZgxt and Final Report attachment. We have also undertaken training in systems-thinking. Cranfield are now a partner institution, supporting WPs 1, 2 and 7 ensuring application of systems-thinking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/work-so-far/developing-groundswell-using-systems-science/
 
Description Team Science training 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We have been working with Colorado State University, experts in Team Science, since the beginning of the CDG phase. This engagement has been 4-fold: i) the co-directors have undertaken leadership training including the development and agreement on principles of their collaborative leadership approach; ii) Team Science training; iii) facilitating the shared vision workshop; iv) community participation workshop. As we move from the conceptualisation to the implementation phase of team development, we have already developed some team principles and agreements, initiated a website, and taken the initial steps in building a Community of Practice with our community partners. Further details: https://bit.ly/3gDZgxt
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://blogs.ed.ac.uk/groundswell/work-so-far/team-science/
 
Description You Tube animation of Greenway webinar series 2020/21 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact We developed an animation to showcase the main points from our webinar series which is hosted on a you Tube channel.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDSDOv74mEE&feature=youtu.be