Project: London: Our Transport, Our Health, Our Science B27

Reference: STP 14/5/13

Last update: 31/12/2009 11:50:42


The overall aim is to develop an innovative methodology for community-driven analysis of transport and health problems and solutions in London. Specific objectives are to:
undertake a series of transport and health workshops within communities in 4 boroughs in London to identify key local transport and health questions of local concern;
undertake a locally specific analysis of transport and health, based on key questions raised in the communities;
undertake feedback and policy workshops in the communities with the findings of the analysis;
produce locally accessible briefing on transport and health for the communities; analyse the community and research learning process and to produce an overall report of the findings with recommendations for possible replicability.


In the UK and internationally, there is government and scientific agreement that transport policies have a significant impact on the health - even while experts disagree on the extent of this. In London, transport policies affect health and proposed transport changes will change health impacts. Yet local people in London have unanswered questions about important transport and health issues in their neighbourhoods. One problem is the gap between information circulating in academic and/or government reports and the kind of local focused information that communities want. Often, key groups affected by health problems related to transport are particularly excluded from identification of which key questions to ask: for example elderly people, children or the socially excluded.

The goal of this project is to pilot the development of community-led analyis of transport and health problems and solutions in London; and to explore processes of mutual learning between analysts of transport and health problems and policies, and communities who experience impacts. We plan to change the normal flow of questions, information and understanding between communities, researchers and government, by letting communities set their transport and health questions and allowing them drive an analysis and to interpret information. We aim to work with the people who are often most excluded from a role in deciding the questions to be asked.


Community Development Foundation
60 Highbury Grove, London, N5 2AG
020 7226 5375

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
University of London, Keppel Street, London, WC1E 7HT
020 7927 2820

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £49,892.00

Actual start date: 31 March 2002

Actual completion date: 29 August 2003


London: Our Transport, Our Science, Our Health - Project Report 2, Final Report and Follow Up
Author: Carolyn Stephens, Chris Grundy, Megan Landon, Chris Church, Guillermo Marquez and Juan Gay
Publication date: 29/08/2003
Source: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

Summary of results

  1. Introduction

    This project was set up by the LSHTM and CDF to work with communities and young people in London. Our aim was to understand and answer a specific question from each community organisation or school about transport and health issues in London, and to provide them with high quality information in formats that would be clear and useful to them.

    The project piloted a method for the development of community-led questions and analysis on transport and health. Our specific overall aim was 'to develop an innovative methodology for community-driven analysis of transport and health problems and solutions in London', and in doing this was to change the normal flow of questions, information and understanding between communities, researchers and government, by letting communities within London set their transport and health questions and allowing them drive our analysis and to interpret the answers. We also aimed to work with the people who are often most excluded from a role in deciding the questions to be asked and the solutions to be developed.

    The work that was done

    The project was in 3 phases. In the first phase, the team selected four boroughs to work in: Barking and Dagenham, Ealing, Greenwich and Wandsworth. The local council was involved in all boroughs to a greater or lesser extent. In each, two community groups or schools were selected: one contact in Greenwich failed to develop. The team met with each group to draft the question that would be answered. In the second phase the team analysed data and recruited additional data where necessary. Stage 3 involved a further series of workshops to feed back the results to the communities and schools and to discuss ideas for follow-up action.

    Conclusions and Discussion

    One of our hypotheses with this project was that communities and local citizens have unanswered questions. Another was that government and scientists often answer the wrong questions. We demonstrated this with this project, and in unexpected ways.

    One of the most important findings related to the questions that communities and children asked relates to their range and holistic nature. Community members did not want to know one tiny piece of the puzzle but a much broader picture of a whole "story". This contrasted interestingly with another aspect of questions - their very local nature. All the groups wanted to place information in time or in space, but as important was placing this in the very local experience of a street or town centre.

    In this project we have piloted one way forward. This raises five issues.

    The value and feasibility of replicating this approach

    This project has been very successful with some of the communities and less with others. It was time consuming, but has been very rewarding in terms of interest that communities and schools have had in transport, and the extent to which this has led to interest and trust of science on much wider issues. The challenge of making transport and health information more tailored to community concerns, more interesting and more accessible to communities and school children is enormous.

    Long-term commitment

    One difficulty of tackling transport and health issues in this way is the relative absence of 'quick wins': there are few easy solutions to the problems that have emerged. Some form of follow-up mentoring or development programme would ultimately be desirable as part of this work as would the funding someone involved in the project to attend a few meetings of the relevant organisation and to act as a medium-term expert advisor.

    Mutual Learning

    The second conclusion relates to the richness of new scientific learning that comes from this kind of work. Engaging communities in this kind of project raises questions that have not been tackled previously. Feeding back the information to communities raises explanations for apparent trends in data that could not be seen from the data alone.

    The 'spin-offs'

    Perhaps the most interesting spin-off has been the way in which the work has been received by young people. It has led young people on a very deprived estate to construe science in a different way and potentially has contributed to a change in their way of thinking of science and their communities. It has led us to develop further projects in collaboration with Barking and Dagenham to use this approach to engage alienated young people in the borough in more community led science. It has led us to develop summer schools for such young people, and to develop summer schools for adults in London in participatory epidemiology for the community.

    Relevance and Use for DfT

    The project has sparked widespread interest in Europe, particularly amongst networks of policymakers and researchers working on children's environmental health. The project's work with young people is seen as particularly important in the light of the 2004 WHO meeting of Environment and Health Ministers, with its emphasis on children's environment and health in the future, and their participation in future policy. We have also received interest from local councils outside London who are developing their policies for community participation and for work with schools on road safety.

    A major emphasis of DfT is on road safety, part of which includes guidance for schools on how to incorporate transport and health issues into the curriculum. The project could provide case study materials for this group of an approach to involve young people in understanding road traffic accidents in their local area. Disciplines and study we covered in this project include science, geography, maths, english, and media studies. Young people working on the project reported that they improved their skills in communication, understanding and presentation. As importantly, the project made their curricular skills seem more relevant to their daily lives.

    Our work with communities also has relevance for policy on community engagement and the development of tailored information systems. The project has shown how careful engagement with communities can lead to a more transparent and trusting relationship between those who normally operate at a policy or information level with the community members most affected by transport and health problems. It has also raised new questions and hypotheses that can begin to explain clusters of injury and ill-health in certain localities.
    Our work was approached as a pilot study. If it was replicated, perhaps a key outcome would be an increase in understanding, openness and trust between policy makers and communities at local level. The process involved in this work, is as valuable as the results of each exercise. As importantly the approach we use here potentially shifts the balance of information-policy development, and allows excluded communities more insight and input into the process of information gathering and policy development.

Departmental Assessment Status: Awaiting assessment by New Horizons Advisory Committee