UCL Health of the Public



A City Collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing.


ActEarly is a major new prevention research programme that aims to improve the life chances of children by focusing on improving the environments that influence their health. The £6.5 million UK Prevention Research Partnership award is led by the Bradford Institute for Health Research. It brings together a consortium of researchers from across 5 universities, together with Local Authorities in Bradford and Tower Hamlets, the LGA, Public Health England, Sport England, charities and Non-Governmental Organisations such as Bromley by Bow Centre and Nesta.

Economic, physical, cultural, learning, social and service environments have a profound effect on health and opportunity. Our focus is on early life (ActEarly) in recognition of childhood and adolescence being such critical periods for influencing lifelong health and wellbeing. Initiatives to enrich environments in areas of high child poverty can reduce inequalities across the life-course. Rather than scatter interventions and initiatives across many settings and evaluate single outcomes, ActEarly are testing their collective impact across multiple outcomes with the goal of achieving a tipping point for better health.

ActEarly are developing City Collaboratories in Bradford and Tower Hamlets, to provide research-ready, people-powered and data-linked test beds to co-produce, implement and evaluate early life interventions to prevent disease and reduce inequalities. Our City Collaboratory approach will provide a whole system environment where the public, scientists, policy leaders and practitioners work with each other to develop and test system-wide early life upstream prevention solutions, supported by efficient platforms for robust evaluation.

UCL researchers Professor Nicola Christie and Professor Laura Vaughan are leading the Healthy Places theme, creating better environments that support healthy behaviours for children and families in deprived areas. This includes an evaluation of how healthy school streets, low traffic neighbourhoods and play and recreation outdoors can contribute to children’s physical activity and mental and wellbeing.

Professor Claire Cameron is co-leading the Healthy Livelihoods, and the Healthy Learning themes, developing and evaluating a range of interventions designed to address child, young people and family wellbeing and opportunities. In 2020-2022 the team explored the impacts of COVID-19 on families in Tower Hamlets, to help Tower Hamlets council shape its service offer to all families with young children. We are now helping Tower Hamlets find out what stops families take up places in early childhood education settings. We have also made a short video explaining the links between health and education:

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDHHidfsqBo&t=1s

Community empowerment is at the heart of our ActEarly ‘City Collaboratory’ approach. Professor Muki Haklay is leading Citizen science and co-production work to ensure ActEarly research is genuinely co-produced with the public, policy makers and the third sector, to ensure real and lasting change.

To find out more about ActEarly and its City Collaboratory approach visit the ActEarly website.