It feels like everyone in London spent most of 2020 worrying about getting ill with coronavirus – we worried, and continue to worry, about ourselves, our families, and our communities. And we worried about the wider impacts of this illness of the pandemic on our economy and society.
Here at Centre for London we produce detailed data about its impact on Londoners’ lives and their expectations, on the economic fallout of the pandemic, on transport, and on equalities.
One of our new years’ resolutions is to spend more time researching, more broadly, Londoners’ health and wellbeing and developing new solutions to our most critical public health challenges. For there is, of course, far more to health than the virus – and indeed there is far more to health than the NHS. I’ve been an enthusiastic – and perhaps rather evangelical – fan of Professor Sir Michael Marmot’s work on health inequalities for the last 10 years: his biggest message is that almost every area of policy is to do with health, and that the big influences on our physical and mental health are largely outside the health service.
We already work on many of the factors which influence health at Centre for London. Some of the connections are obvious: we promote cycling and walking, which improve physical and mental health, and try to reduce traffic in part because air pollution is bad for our lungs. We advocate for fair access to public space because green space and exercise are good for us all. We press for all Londoners to have access to decent homes because we know that cramped and overcrowded homes increase stress and make it harder to be active. We’re concerned about access to further education because we know that people with low or no qualifications have less money and worse health for their whole lives. We could apply this logic to almost all our research. But we’re planning, in 2021, to build on this work by developing a dedicated research and events programme on London’s most critical health and wellbeing challenges.
We will be doing some of this through our London Futures review, which looks at different potential futures for our city – we are delighted Guy’s and St Thomas’s Charity are supporting a health strand of London Futures. Our ‘Your Future London’ platform, launching in February, will invite Londoners to share their own views on what we should prioritise and where health and wellbeing fits into these priorities – we’re really looking forward to sharing this with you.
But we also want to look at shorter term and more discrete health and wellbeing issues, with a particular focus on better understanding and tackling the health and wellbeing disadvantages faced by Black and ethnic minority Londoners, for example, and older Londoners. We also want to work on the health impacts of the way we move around the city and design and manage neighbourhoods.
If you’d like to talk to us about our work on health and wellbeing, please contact Claire Harding.