Category Archives: News

New journal: Wellbeing, Space & Society

CRESH co-Director Jamie Pearce who is co-editing a new journal focused on the role of place in understanding human health and wellbeing along with Susan Elliott who is a Professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada.The journal, named Wellbeing, Space & Society, is an interdisciplinary journal concerned with the difference that space, place and location make to wellbeing. It welcomes submissions that are theoretically informed, empirically supported, of interest to an international readership, address a problem of interest to society, and illustrate the links (potential or theorized) between (aspects of) society and space and wellbeing. We publish papers from a range of social science disciplines – geography, sociology, social psychology, social epidemiology, economics, anthropology, political science, amongst others.

The editors are particularly interested in the policy implications of the research, including work informed by policy analysis. Methodological plurality and innovation are encouraged; interpretation of wellbeing in this context may be subjective or objective, eudonic or hedonic, and may also be at the individual and/or community levels. But they are particularly interested in the wellbeing of places – how is that conceptualized, theorized, operationalised and translated?

For more information please contact Jamie Pearce

An atlas of change in Scotland’s built environment 2016-17

By Laura Macdonald from the MRC/CSO  Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow @theSPHSU

Our neighbourhood environments change and evolve often; some changes are minor, while others involve major transformation. Change can take various forms; green space created or removed, existing housing or amenities demolished, new housing estates built, new motorways created, or existing transport infrastructure modified or extended. Change may affect neighbourhood residents’ physical or mental health, or health-related behaviours, to their benefit or to their detriment. To study how change in our neighbourhoods might affect our health we need robust information but data showing how our neighbourhoods are changing, at a fine geographic scale, for the whole of Scotland, did not exist – until now! This is why we created an atlas showing what’s changed, and an interactive mapping application which allows you to explore the data yourself. Continue reading An atlas of change in Scotland’s built environment 2016-17

New evidence linking availability of tobacco & smoking

The connection between the local availability of tobacco products and smoking behaviour has been underlined in new research from the CRESH team this week. Published in the journal Tobacco Control, we show how moving into an area of Scotland where tobacco products are more readily available can significantly increase the risk of smoking while pregnant. We estimate that a pregnant woman living in an area with the highest tobacco availability is 70% more likely to smoke than when she was living in an area with the lowest availability of tobacco products.

Why is this important? Firstly, smoking during pregnancy is a vital Public Health issue and is recognised as a key priority area for UK health policy. It is harmful for both the mother and the developing fetus and the effects for social and health outcomes can persist into childhood and adulthood. Since smoking is so strongly associated with poverty and deprivation, it also has an important role to play in the persistence of health inequalities across generations.

But there are other reasons why the research is important. Much of what we know, including previous research from CRESH, is based on information from a single point in time. While these studies are crucial in establishing the strength of associations, they are less useful for determining mechanisms. A key question that remains is whether high availability is the cause of smoking behaviour or whether retailers preferentially locate in areas of high demand. Both pathways are plausible but both carry very different conclusions and policy recommendations. Our latest research is able to address this question using information on smoking during pregnancy which is collected routinely as part of Scotland’s hospital maternity records. By looking at multiple pregnancies to the same individual, we were able to relate changes in smoking behaviour between pregnancies to changes in exposure to tobacco retailers from residential moves. This approach provides strong evidence that availability is causally linked to behaviour.

The policy implications are clear. As more and more countries move towards a “Tobacco Endgame” policy this, and other research, highlights how a focus on tackling the local availability of tobacco products will be crucial. In a week where the UK government has suggested that preventing poor health lies with “people choosing to look after themselves better, staying active and stopping smoking” our findings are a timely reminder of the importance of considering the wider set of structural factors that shape our health of which our residential environment is one important component.

Hard Times: Mental Health under Austerity event

How important for mental health are the changing social, economic and environmental conditions in the places where we live? Our research, funded by ESRC, addresses this question through a new and innovative study of mental health of people living in different parts of Scotland. We are focussing especially on the period since 2007 when economic recession and austerity have impacted to a varying extent across the country. This event will use interactive data visualisations to present our research findings, showing how audience polling techniques allow the participants to select topics of special interest for them, to help determine in ‘real time’ the focus of the results presented. This will be combined with an opportunity for group discussion and exchange of ideas among diverse participants, many of whom will be involved in mental health care and promotion of better mental health. We will be sharing new evidence and discussing the implications for policy and practice in different parts of Scotland. The event is also intended to help shape the future research agenda.

FREE to attend. Registration via Eventbrite. Refreshments provided.

LOCATION

The Melting Pot, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PR

Update 21/12/18

We had a really productive day on the 7th of November, thanks to the helpful and encouraging input from all the attendees. Please feel free to download and share the Powerpoint slides. We have collated the information gathered using Mentimeter and transcribed the written notes. The report which features a discussion on how these findings relate to the wider project is now available to download.

 

 

GIS job – come and work with us

We have a great job going. It’s at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit in Glasgow. Your role will be within the Neighbourhoods and Communities Programme . Your job will be to support the Programme Leader in developing research furthering our understanding of how social and physical environment might improve public health and reduce health inequalities. We’re looking for someone who can use GIS and write code. Specifically, you will be obtaining and preparing large spatial datasets, manipulating them in GIS, writing project specific code in a general purpose programming language, preferably Python or R, and carrying out research examining relationships between environment and population health. This job requires the ability to create and code innovative solutions to data handling and data analysis problems. Plenty of chances to contribute to publications and grant applications too. No need to have a PhD – we’re more interested in your skills…. 

More details, including how to apply, how much you could get paid etc here.

The closing date for applications is 22nd October.

Rich Mitchell would be delighted to discuss the post with you.

 

 Main Duties and Responsibilities

Perform the following activities in conjunction with and under the guidance of the Principal Investigator (PI):

1. Plan and conduct assigned research into environment and health, individually or jointly in accordance with the programme’s development strategy.

2. Contribute to the development and implementation of new methods and approaches to understanding how neighbourhood environments do, and might, affect health.

3. Develop, test and implement custom scripts/code to enable the handling and analysis of large spatial datasets.

4. Document research output including analysis and interpretation of all data, maintaining records and managing databases, drafting technical/progress reports and papers as appropriate.

5. Contribute to the organisation, supervision, mentoring and training of undergraduate and/or postgraduate students and less experienced members of staff of the project team to ensure their effective development.

6. Develop and enhance your research profile and reputation and that of The University of Glasgow, SPHSU and Neighbourhoods and Communities Programme, including contributing to publications of international quality in high profile/quality refereed journals, enhancing the research impact in terms of economic/societal benefit, and gathering indicators of esteem.

7. Contribute to the presentation of work at international and national conferences, at internal and external seminars, colloquia and workshops to develop and enhance our research profile.

8. Contribute to the identification of potential funding sources and assist in the development of proposals to secure funding from internal and external bodies to support future research.

9. Collaborate with colleagues and participate in team/group meetings/seminars/workshops across SPHSU/Institute of Health and Wellbeing/ University and wider community (e.g academic partners).

10. Perform administrative tasks related to the activities of the research group including budgets/expenditure.

11. Contribute to outreach activities of the University of Glasgow.

12. Carry out modest teaching activities (e.g demonstrating etc) and associated administration as assigned by the Directors of cognate Research Institutes and in consultation with Principal Investigators.

13. Keep up to date with current knowledge and recent advances in the field/discipline.

14. Engage in personal, professional and career development to enhance both specialist and transferable skills in accordance with desired career trajectory.

15. Undertake any other duties of equivalent standing as assigned by Directors of cognate Research Institutes and/or PIs.15. Contribute to the enhancement of the University’s International profile in line with the Strategic Plan, Glasgow 2020 – A Global Vision.

Salary Range£28,098 – £31,604 per annum

To Understand Place, Sometimes You Need to Go Places

By Jon Olsen

I recently spent a week as a visiting postdoctoral researcher at the Built Environment and Health (BEH) research group at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.

My visit was funded by the University of Glasgow’s Principal’s Early Career Mobility Scheme, a scheme which aims to give the opportunity for postdoctoral researchers to visit international institutions, providing the time and space to develop high-impact collaboration with staff there.

I organised the visit and developed a proposal on how I would spend my time at Columbia with Kathryn Neckerman, a senior research scientist at the Columbia Population Research Centre and co-director of BEH. Now I am back, it’s time to reflect.

Why is international research collaboration important?

Improving population health and well-being is a focus of Governments and health organisations globally and, while there is continued focus and resource, poor health and inequalities remain. This is partly because improving health and well-being, and reducing inequalities is complex and requires complex solutions. Professor David Hunter in an article in the Journal of Public Health describes improving health and well-being as a ‘wicked problem’. A ‘Wicked’ issue in the sense these problems “defy easy or single bullet solutions” and “have complex causes and require complex solutions”. Collaboration is vital to bring together ideas and resources to tackle complex problems.

An article on international research collaboration in Elsevier connect, following the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in Melbourne in 2015, stated that “researchers collaborate to share their knowledge and combine the perspectives they have to solve complex problems that are increasingly cross-disciplinary in nature”. It argued that international collaboration provides many benefits, including “enabling researchers in institutions to access resources beyond their own, especially funding, talent and equipment”.

Furthermore, the article suggested that regional universities could collaborate when research is centred on a common regional challenge. However, there are further opportunities for international collaboration and learning, such as where research themes and methodologies are overlapping. All this potential was in mind as I travelled to Columbia University and I was able to explore this through my visit to BEH. For me, the question was how could the similarities that exist in Neighbourhood and Health research themes in Glasgow and in New York benefit research and help further understand complex problems.

Neighbourhood and Health research themes in Glasgow and New York

The BEH research group has an interdisciplinary programme of research which uses spatial data to examine the impact of the built environment (including land use, public transit, and housing) on physical activity, diet, obesity, and other aspects of health. The group’s research themes have many parallels to ours in the Neighbourhoods and Communities Programme at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit (SPHSU), University of Glasgow, and at the Centre for Research on the Environment, Society and Health (CRESH). We all seek to understand how neighbourhood environments impact upon health outcomes and health inequalities.

For example, researchers at SPHSU and CRESH have recently described an association between alcohol and tobacco outlet density across Scotland and area level deprivation such that the poorest neighbourhoods had the highest densities of outlet. However, this is a complex issue as highlighted by a Glasgow based study conducted at SPHSU, ‘The socio-spatial distribution of alcohol outlets in Glasgow city’, which did not find the same association. My colleague Laura Macdonald’s recent paper described that perceptions of being well-placed for amenities and the presence of amenities in the local neighbourhood were not necessarily correlated.

In New York, BEH group have recently developed a tool that allows the automated auditing of neighbourhood environments using Google Street View. This project developed a system called the ‘Computer Assisted Neighborhood Visual Assessment System’ (CANVAS), to conduct Street View based audits of neighbourhoods. The software developed can be used for neighbourhood audits conducted at a desktop computer for a much lower cost than sending out trained auditors to survey the neighbourhood.

CANVAS creates opportunities a richer understanding of neighbourhood environments than using only the geographical location of amenities or outlets. This could include an understanding of visual stimuli in the neighbourhood on individual behavioural choices, such as advertising of health/fast foods, whether amenities and outlets are visible to individuals travelling along streets, and changes in this over time. Approaches like CANVAS could bring advances in our field which often currently assumes that proximity to facilities is the primary mediator in access. As our research has shown, perception and presence of amenities are not necessarily correlated.

Our programme has recently completed data collection for the Studying Physical Activity in Children’s Environments across Scotland (SPACES) study. The SPACES study is the first national representative study in Scotland to collect both Global Positioning System (GPS) and accelerometer (i.e. movement) data of over 800 children, 10-11 years old. Indeed, a study I am currently leading utilises the SPACES dataset to describe children’s patterns of movement within the landscape and how this may be affected by the surrounding neighbourhoods in terms of its makeup, size, shape and proximity to each other. Paul McCrorie and colleagues’ review the use of such devices to explore the physical activity and environment relationship in children and young people highlighted that describing people’s movement in time and space is a field which is advancing rapidly, driven by the advancements in wearable technologies that collect GPS data. But this also means that it’s imperative we understand and develop the methodological options for analysing the gathered data to ensure robust and generalizable conclusions.

The Potential of Collaboration

Spending time with BEH, I could more readily see that the two programmes share a clear focus to establish a grounded and robust methodological framework for describing patterns of movement and environmental exposures in neighbourhoods.

It was this first-hand opportunity to share learning both from the analysis of our studies and our approaches which can, I believe, lead to better collaboration. Modern technology is great for communication, but direct dialogue and the time and space to be with potential colleagues in their environment can perhaps offer richer experience than a scheduled video-conference or a meeting of minds at a conference, (valuable as those are).

For example, last year the BEH group published a study using GPS data to study neighborhood walkability and physical activity’ in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. This measured the size and characteristics of residential neighbourhood areas utilised, and those not utilised, by people in New York City. I was able to discuss this with the lead author, Andrew Rundle, who is also co-director of BEH, during my visit and the strengths and limitations of different geospatial analytical and statistical techniques for neighbourhood GPS studies, which I also picked up with Stephen Mooney while I was there.

I am now continuing to explore ideas around methodological development and carrying on these discussions. International travel schemes are invaluable. It is important to step outside of your own research group to gain a wider academic perspective of world-leading research. Although my visit to BEH was not about collaboraton in the sense of producing a research paper or grant, it allowed us to share practice, knowledge and ideas.

Of course, embracing an international spirit also means following the ‘when in Rome’ philosophy, so before I left, as a keen runner, I also made time to tread some miles amongst the amazing New York scenery. And as a geographer interested in spatial epidemiology, and like other geographers, I track all my runs using GPS! I have included the routes for those who might want to check them out: Two Bridges, Lower Manhattan to Battery Park, and a foggy 5k across the Manhattan Bridge.

 

 

Being a Scout or Guide protects mental health and narrows inequalities in later life

By Rich Mitchell and Chris Dibben

beaver-scouts-plant-trees-for-their-gardener-badge-pic-credit-the-scout-association
Today, with colleagues from the Longitudinal Studies Centre Scotland at Edinburgh University, we have published a study
which found that being in the Guides or Scouts as a child seems to protect your mental health long into adulthood. Those who were in the Guides or Scouts were about 18% less likely to have a mood or anxiety disorder at age 50, than those who were not. This protective link seems especially strong for children who grew up in less advantaged households, so much so that the usual ‘gap’ in mental health between those from richer and poorer backgrounds does not exist among those who were Scouts or Guides. Continue reading Being a Scout or Guide protects mental health and narrows inequalities in later life

The impact of a motorway extension in Glasgow on road traffic accidents

Funded by the NIHR PHR Programme

A new study published by Dr Jon Olsen at CRESH and colleagues at CEDAR in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health evaluated the impact of the 5-mile M74 motorway extension on road accidents that resulted in a casualty. The study found that it had no impact on the already decreasing trend of road accidents in the area. Continue reading The impact of a motorway extension in Glasgow on road traffic accidents

Smoking and Health in Scotland: key stats

smoking_infographic2Today we’re launching our hot-off-the-press infographic about Smoking and Health in Scotland.  In collaboration with Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) Scotland we’ve created this summary of some of the key statistics on smoking and health in Scotland, featuring some headline results from our own research.  Please use and circulate widely! Continue reading Smoking and Health in Scotland: key stats

Scottish (Managed) Sustainable Health Network (SMaSH) – Annual Event (2015)

This year SMaSH is holding its annual event jointly with us at CRESH. This free event is on the 26 March 2015 at the CoSLA Conference Centre, Verity House, Haymarket Yards, Edinburgh. The  programme is below for your information and if you would like to register to attend please follow the link below to the online registration page. Please disseminate the details to anyone you think may be interested. Continue reading Scottish (Managed) Sustainable Health Network (SMaSH) – Annual Event (2015)

CRESH goes Stateside: International Medical Geography Symposium 2013

by Helena Tunstall, Catherine Tisch and Anna Kenyon

The 15th International Medical Geography Symposium, the biggest international academic health geography conference, took place July 7-12 this year, at Michigan State University (MSU) in East Lansing, USA. This conference is always a fun, friendly and inspirational meeting: a real CRESH highlight. This time we were represented by Helena Tunstall (presenting on ‘triple jeopardy’ in England and impacts of internal migration on health inequalities in UK), Anna Kenyon (presenting on walkability measures and walking outcomes in Scotland) and Catherine Tisch (presenting on tobacco environments and adolescent smoking behaviours in Scotland).  Abstracts for these talks can be found in the program, but watch this space for news of forthcoming publications on these topics. In this short blog post we note some thoughts arising from the conference.    Continue reading CRESH goes Stateside: International Medical Geography Symposium 2013

Smoking Symposium at Durham University

Prof Jamie Pearce was an invited commentator at the inugural symposium of the Smoking Interest Group at Durham University’s Centre for Medical Humanities. This one day workshop, led by Professor Jane Macnaughton and Dr Andrew Russell established a fascinating dialogue between policy makers, practitioners and social science researchers with an interest in smoking and tobacco. The event is likely to lead to a number of new and exciting research collabrations in the field of tobacco control.

Forthcoming symposium: Mental Health and the Environment

CRESH are pleased to announce an interdisciplinary symposium to be held at the University of Edinburgh on 31st March 2011. The event is being organised with the University’s Human Geography Research Group, in the School of GeoSciences.

It is well recognised that mental health and illness are significant causes of human disability and impairment. Academic researchers and policy makers are increasingly concerned with the relationship between the environment and various mental health related outcomes. It is acknowledged that risk and resilience to mental illness and distress is a strongly linked to characteristics of the environments in which we live, work and play. This symposium will draw on work from a number of fields to consider the role of the physical, social, built and healthcare environments in understanding human mental health and wellbeing. This interdisciplinary symposium will be of interest to policy makers, students and academic researchers working in the field of mental health and wellbeing.

Confirmed speakers:
Professor Sarah Curtis, Durham University
Dr Anne Ellaway, MRC Glasgow.
Professor Christine Milligan, Lancaster University
Prof Richard Mitchell, University of Glasgow
Dr Liz Twigg, University of Portsmouth

The programme of talks for the day is available here.

Date: 31st March 2011
Time: 1000 to 1800 hrs
Venue: Edinburgh

 

Please sign up before 28th February 2011 by contacting:

Anna Kenyon (A.Kenyon@sms.ed.ac.uk)

CRESH work presented at national statistics event

Elizabeth Richardson presented our regional-level environmental deprivation work to the ScotStat Small Area Statistics event on 5th October 2010.  The programme of talks can be found here, along with links to the talks: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/sns/SNSEve/051010SmallAreaStatistics

She gave a talk entitled “Multiple Environmental Deprivation in South Lanarkshire: Does It Influence Health?” which can be found here: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/sns/SNSEve/051010MultipleEnvDep

The event provided a useful overview of small area statistics in Scotland, including the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, the Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics web portal and a range of interesting talks from other users of the data such as ourselves.  Useful links were made with ScotStat, the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland and other users.  A key part of the day was a consultation on potential changes to Scotland’s key small area geography: the data zone.  The process involves trading off the advantages of maintaining comparable populations between the areas but also keeping the area boundaries consistent through time.

Smoking research in the news

Dr Jamie Pearce was part of a team of researchers considering the impact of the  introduction of legislation in New Zealand that restricted the  places where people can smoke. The results of the study, published recently, suggested  that whilst the introduction of the smoking legislation has reduced  the rate of hospital admissions due to heart attacks, this effect  may be greater in males, older age groups and those living in more  affluent neighbourhoods. The research was published in the  Australia and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. Reports on the  findings have appeared on the BBC, ITV, national newspapers as well  as various international media outlets. For example, see:

BBC coverage

The paper itself can be found here