Belfast start-up plays part in £7m consortium to prevent health inequalities through urban spaces

  • Belfast start-up CivicDollars is part of a new £7m consortium, which has been funded to boost research on urban spaces and tackling health inequalities. 

    The Consortium, ‘GroundsWell: Community-engaged and Data-informed Systems Transformation of Urban Green and Blue Space for Population Health’ will explore how transforming cities with nature can reduce health inequalities, primarily around chronic and non-infectious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and mental health. 

    Over the five-year project, the interdisciplinary team - which includes Queen's University Belfast - will develop innovative approaches to work with communities on this issue.    

    CivicDollars is an app that allows people in Belfast to earn rewards for the time they spend in their local parks and open spaces.

    Stephen McPeake, its creator said: "Life these days is about so much more than just money – it’s about improving our communities, and our own health and wellbeing – Civic Dollars provides the perfect solution with a new social currency. It’s a win win all round!”

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    Dr Ruth Hunter, from the Centre of Public Health at QUB noted: “There is strong evidence that natural environments within urban areas, such as parks, woodlands (green spaces) as well as lakes and beaches (blue spaces), have positive impacts on health. 

    “These urban green and blue spaces could be huge assets for protecting and equalising health if they were available, accessible, valued and well-used, particularly by less advantaged groups. The problem is that they are not, which is what this project aims to address.

    “We are delighted to receive this funding [for the consortium] from UK Prevention Research Partnership," she added. 

    "Working with a range of experts across health, data and community engagement, over the next five years we will seek solutions to improve our urban environment that will in-turn improve population health.” 

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    UKPRP supports multidisciplinary teams looking at ways to prevent non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, poor mental health, obesity, cancer and diabetes. Non-communicable diseases make up the majority of illnesses in the UK and account for an estimated 89% of all deaths.   

    Professor Kevin Fenton, Chair of the UKPRP Scientific Advisory Board commented: “The projects funded under this programme are pushing the boundaries of prevention research by taking multidisciplinary approaches to addressing the complexities of population health, with the aim of improving people’s lives and health.  

    “As we look to build back fairer from the pandemic, the creation of healthy communities and places is a key priority.” 

    The multi-disciplinary team involves researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, University of Edinburgh, University of Liverpool, University of Exeter, University of Glasgow, Cranfield University, Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moore’s University and Colorado State University.

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    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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