A Scotland where we live in vibrant, healthy and safe places and communities is one of the six public health priorities for Scotland. Health Improvement Officer, Michelle McCormack, discusses the work Public Health Scotland (PHS) is doing with the Improvement Service (IS) to deliver the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme across seven towns in Scotland.

When I ask my friends and family what a sense of place means to them, they tell me it’s the people, it’s history and memories, somewhere they feel connected to as well as sights, sounds and smells. As someone whose job it is to gain and share an understanding of the importance of place on people’s lives, I appreciate that the places where people live, work and play are key to the health and wellbeing of communities.

Growing numbers of studies have explored how differences in the design and function of neighbourhoods contribute to health inequalities. Low-income groups and minority ethnic groups have less access to well-maintained parks or safe recreational facilities than those in higher income groups. Their neighbourhoods are more likely to lack features that support active travel and less likely to have access to supermarkets and places stocking healthy, fresh food.
To address these inequalities, we all need to think beyond the health and care system to improve population health. Projects focused on improving place can address these inequalities while also generating many other positive community outcomes. They shape the environments in which we live through collectively considering and offering improvements on:

  • affordable, good quality housing
  • connected and empowered communities
  • high quality, blue, green and open spaces
  • fair and just employment opportunities
  • access to education in schools, colleges, and universities
  • health and social care provision
  • accessible and affordable transport
  • affordable and healthy food.

PHS and IS are delivery partners on such a place making project called the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme. Supported by The Health Foundation, Scottish Government and CoSLA, the programme aims to improve Scotland’s wellbeing and reduce inequalities through changing our collective approach to the places where we live, work and play. It supports local authorities, health boards, and their partners to consider ‘place’ in a comprehensive and consistent way, whilst delivering on interventions and a range of national ambitions and core government policy aspirations.

Using the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes and the Place Standard

Shaping Places for Wellbeing runs across seven towns in Scotland – Rutherglen, Alloa, Dalkeith, Clydebank, Ayr, Fraserburgh and Dunoon. In each of these towns, both the Place Standard and Place and Wellbeing Outcomes have been used to gain a deeper understanding of the places and to put forward recommendations for improvements.

The Place and Wellbeing Collaborative established a set of Outcomes for Scotland that drew on the same evidence base that supported the Place Standard. They build on the 14 themes of the Place Standard Tool, grouping them into five overarching themes and 13 outcomes defining the added value we want to deliver in all of Scotland’s places. Each outcome now has an agreed set of quantitative indicators that can be used to see how a local area is performing against each of the outcomes.

The Place Standard Tool also provides an understanding of our places for each of the outcomes. It does this by providing a structure for a conversation between communities and key stakeholders.

Together the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes Indicators and the Place Standard tool provide a quantitative and qualitative understanding of our places, what works well, what needs to improve and the priorities for change.

Shaping Places Towns

In early 2022, work was undertaken in Alloa to facilitate the development of the Wellbeing Hub. Input from the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme has helped to strengthen the development of this work through a Place and Wellbeing Assessment. The subsequent support to embed its recommendations has resulted in the Risk and Opportunities Register for the project including them. This means that the impact of the building and the services it provides in Alloa and its communities will be a consideration throughout the life of the project.

The use of the Place Standard has had a major influence on several of the Town Centre Improvements undertaken in Alloa. For example, a key walkway has been transformed into a vibrant display of public art. These targeted and community led actions for improvement make a big impact and enable local people to see the changes happening in their town.

In Fraserburgh, the links with community planning partners, including Police Scotland, Scottish Fire and Rescue Services, Aberdeenshire Public Health and NHS Grampian have proven to be of great benefit in developing quick and meaningful engagement with these key stakeholders and in developing the network around the project. This has also helped to strengthen the connections between organisations within the community planning partnership, providing an opportunity for organisations to work more collaboratively on place-based working.

Working on the Shaping Places for Wellbeing programme, has given me a greater understanding of how the Place and Wellbeing Assessment process is used and how embedding the Place and Wellbeing Outcomes into decisions can impact the places where we live, work and relax.

Opportunities are created for different people, across departments and organisations, to come together to rapidly share their expertise and perspectives for strategic decision making, while supporting a place-based approach to prevent and mitigate inequalities. This spans all aspects of a place from physical and social activity to transport, economy, the environment, and emphasises inclusion and connectivity. I can see how working relationships have been strengthened through the programme.

Watch the video below for more information on the Shaping Places for Wellbeing Programme, which also highlights the work carried out in Alloa and Fraserburgh.



You can read more about what the Shaping Places for Wellbeing programme does here.

For further information on the Place Standard Tool please visit Our Place website.

Last updated: 26 January 2024