By SDRN on 18th June 2012

LOCATION: Glasgow, Scotland.

AIM: To investigate the health and wellbeing impacts of regeneration activity associated with a programme of investment in housing and neighbourhood regeneration in Glasgow; to understand the processes of change and implementation which contribute to positive and negative health impacts; to contribute to community awareness and understanding of health issues and enable community members to take part in the programme; and to share best practice and knowledge of ‘what works’ with regeneration practitioners across Scotland on an ongoing basis.

BACKGROUND: GoWell is a ten-year research and learning programme established in 2006, allowing the longitudinal examination of a range of neighbourhood, housing and health-related factors before, during and after the regeneration changes take place. GoWell focuses on 15 communities in Glasgow which are undergoing different degrees of regeneration and change. All have levels of income deprivation higher than the level for Glasgow as a whole – and significantly higher than the national figure. The programme is collaborative partnership between the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, the University of Glasgow, and the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. It is sponsored by the Scottish Government, Glasgow Housing Association, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, and NHS Health Scotland.

STATUS: Ongoing.

ACTIVITIES: Interventions underway as part of the regeneration programme include: housing improvements, transformational regeneration, resident relocation, mixed tenure communities, change of dwelling types, and community engagement and empowerment. Outcomes of interest include: residential, social and community, empowerment, health and wellbeing. GoWell is complex; it would not be possible to understand fully the processes and impacts of neighbourhood regeneration by focusing on only one type of intervention or one community. A range of different research and learning components are being employed to achieve the programme’s aims, some of which are running throughout GoWell’s life-span, some will be repeated at different intervals, and others will be more short term. Broadly, the components include:

  • Community health and wellbeing survey and tracer study: this involves face-to-face interviews with over 6,000 local residents from across the study areas, to be repeated four times over the ten-year study period. There will be a tracking study of respondents who move house between surveys, and a number of focus groups following each survey to provide more detailed qualitative evidence on various issues or aspects of the survey.
  • Governance, participation and empowerment: this involves studying community involvement and empowerment in different areas of the regeneration processes, including the management and ownership of social housing, involvement in the planning and implementation of the major regeneration processes, and the ways in which communities are engaged in community planning and neighbourhood management.
  • Understanding the wider context: this includes monitoring wider area changes, and changes relating to housing and health that are happening throughout Glasgow so that the changes found through the residential survey can be looked at in the context of wider trends.
  • Community-based or ‘nested’ studies of specific initiatives aimed at improving particular aspects of communities.
  • Economic evaluation: involving the development and testing of a new approach to the economic evaluation of public health interventions, using the Capabilities approach.
  • Communications: this component aims to enable effective two-way communication between the GoWell team and its various stakeholders in community, practice, academic and policy arenas.
  • Mixed tenure: several of the GoWell study communities have become more mixed in tenure terms over the past 20 years, and others, such as the transformational regeneration areas, are due to become mixed in the future. The programme has therefore embarked on a programme of work to examine how mixed tenure is delivered, and with what effects.

FINDINGS & LESSONS: Various interim reports are available on the GoWell website and their latest Progress Report highlights a number of broad lessons learned from the programme to-date:

  • Physical and residential outcomes have tended to progress more quickly than social outcomes (although there is some evidence of positive social change, primarily concerning employment and community empowerment). The social regeneration agenda is thought to require an increased level of planning, resourcing and partnership working at the local level so that social outcomes, as well as improvements to residents’ health and wellbeing, might keep pace with residential outcomes in the future.
  • Positive perceptions of home security had the largest impact upon feelings of control, whilst positive perceptions of internal space, internal decoration and bathrooms had the largest impact on feelings of status.
  • Ratings of parks and open spaces, and of children’s play areas, improved between  2006 – 2008 in all types of study area; the evaluation found that both residents and local housing organisations felt improved play areas had enhanced children’s activity levels and provided a greater opportunity for adults to mix.
  • Area reputations are hard to shift and tend to have enduring effects on those who live in the area; a media strategy, linked to a stronger emphasis on community engagement and social regeneration, could help change the balance of press coverage and contribute to shifting an area’s reputation.
  • Young people’s antisocial behaviour is a particular concern amongst many GoWell residents; a briefing paper produced in September 2010 highlights positive findings and recommendations about how to successfully encourage young people away from such behaviours.
  • Migrants tend to feel less socially included within the local community; leadership and cross-group relations is needed so that migrants can feel they are a greater part of what is going on in their area.
  • There was a positive association between perceived community influence over local decisions and respondents’ views of other aspects of community life, such as feelings of belonging, neighbourliness and cohesion.
  • A major strength of the GoWell programme is thought to be its ability to employ mixed-method approaches in order to enhance understanding of the issues involved in both the physical and social regeneration of urban areas.

A useful summary of key findings across the different thematic areas of the programme is available on the GoWell website.


All information was taken from the GoWell website and the latest Progress Report.