Health and business experts from Edge Hill University believe that revitalising high streets by filling empty shops with health services would be one way to save failing shopping areas and support the wellbeing agenda. 

Data shows that communities with poor performing high streets also have some of the worst health and wellbeing outcomes. The pandemic has intensified these problems with deprived areas hit the hardest, with more infections and Covid related deaths placing further pressure on already struggling businesses and health services. 

The University’s Health Research Institute (HRI) and Business School hosted an event to highlight the growing problem. The Health on the High Street Workshop, was organised to directly tackle the problems of failing high streets and health inequalities.

A picture of Professor Kim Cassidy.
Professor Kim Cassidy

Professor of Marketing at Edge Hill Kim Cassidy said: “High streets have been in decline for the better part of 30 years and the pandemic has only hastened the process with many independent retailers going out of business and major brands closing stores.  

“I worked on The second Grimsey Review of the high streets and the COVID supplement which took a hard look at our high streets and found that the old method of trying to encourage more retailers to move in has failed time and time again, so a new solution has to be found.” 

Edge Hill invited to the workshop former Wickes CEO and author of The Grimsey Review Bill Grimsey, Head of Health Economic Partnerships at NHS confederation Michael Wood and a host of GP’s, local government and business experts to discuss how local authorities, the NHS and community groups might work together.  

Bill Grimsey said: “The future of British high streets lies in them becoming community hubs offering face-to-face services unavailable elsewhere. This would give them a unique offering and hopefully bring shoppers back to our high streets. 

“While the closure of stores is sad it does present a unique opportunity for high streets to change for the better and tackle other issues affecting communities in the UK. What we need now is inspired local leaders to prioritise community over business.” 

Co-Author of the Health on the High Street report Michael Wood said: “Our report shows that empty property on high streets could be repurposed to house health services. This would help the NHS broaden the range of services provided within communities in ways that also support local approaches to regeneration and population health. 

Some of the recommendations put forward by Bill and Michael have already been put into practice. One such example is the Healthier Fleetwood Partnership. 

Healthier Fleetwood work closely with the NHS, local authorities, businesses, the education, faith and voluntary sectors to come up with new and imaginative ways to improve health in Fleetwood.  

The partnership has seen residents take control of their health by setting up over 28 different activity groups as well as foodbanks and Covid-19 testing centres. It has also been a key part of Fleetwood’s Covid-19 response by creating the Covid-19 Response Group and Covid-19 Recovery Group who are offering support to everyone affected by pandemic. 

It is hoped that more projects like this could breathe new life into communities and highstreets while providing easy access to much needed health and wellbeing services.  

More information can be found in The Grimsey Review Covid-19 Supplement and Health on the Highstreet, both available online.  

Since its launch in 2014, Edge Hill’s Health Research Institute has established a strong portfolio of multi-disciplinary research that extends beyond traditional medical approaches to reflect a broader view of healthcare. The institute aims to facilitate and enable collaborative research across a range of academic perspectives with external stakeholders in the NHS, social care, charities and other health-related organisations. 

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