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Using Access to Health Assets and Hazards (AHAH) to understand how 'healthy' places are
Mark A. Green, Cillian Berragan, Alex Singleton
The latest release of the “Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards” (AHAH) data resource provides a fresh opportunity to look at place matters for health. While our health is affected by who we are and how we behave (e.g., our genes, diet, physical activity), where we live also matters and shapes our health.
AHAH is a toolbox that describes for neighbourhoods across Great Britain the features of neighbourhoods that affect our health and wellbeing.
We consider data from 15 indicators measuring the types of retail services (e.g., fast food outlets, pubs, gambling stores), access to health services, air quality, and the extent of green and blue spaces. All of these data are free to use and our online mapping resource allows you to look at where you live and how ‘healthy’ it is.
In this data story, we will walk you through how to use our mapping resource and highlight the interesting geographies where place matters for health.
Using the tool
Our Mapmaker resource allows you to visualize a range of data for places across Great Britain. The ‘Choose a Map’ option will allow you to select a range of methods, but for this we will focus on Access to Healthy Assets and Hazards (AHAH). You can navigate through the map but clicking and dragging to move, zoom in and out, or search for your postcode.
The box on the right side gives you some information about what you are looking at. In sum, reds are often neighbourhoods that perform poorly (i.e., health constraining on AHAH) on a measure and blues are areas that do well (i.e., health promoting)
While there are areas with lots of grey space, these are simply areas where no-one lives. We think it is better to just colour in buildings and houses to avoid since our data are about people and this avoids misleading the reader in large unhabitated regions.
You can also use the drop down box to change the specific measure as well.
Cities are unequal places
AHAH reveals that most of the ‘unhealthiest’ places are concentrated in the city centers – places with high density of pubs, gambling stores, fast food outlets, poor air quality and often lacking access to green spaces. However, each city has its own story to tell.
If we look at the Liverpool City Region and Merseyside, we see very different experiences depending on where you live. Neighbourhoods are poorer in North and Central Liverpool, as well as Wallasey and Birkenhead. In contrast, more suburban and rural parts of the Wirral are found to be better environments.
Liverpool City Region
Through clicking on the indicators, we can look into some of the reasons for these patterns.
Sheffield has a distinct East-West divide, with better environments in the West of the city where places have better access to green spaces and lower levels of pollution.
If we look at London, we see that most of the city falls in the poorest values reflecting some of the highest air pollution levels in Europe, as well as high density of services like pubs, fast food outlets, and gambling outlets.
Indeed, all of the bottom 50 places on the index are located within Inner City London (with Camden having three neighbourhoods in the top 5). This does not mean all of London is unhealthy – Richmond is in contrast with better scores.
Not all urban environments are highlighted as bad – check Colchester, Milton Keynes, Taunton, Conwy, Chester, St. Andrews, Arbroath or Dunbarton as examples of very different urban places that perform well on AHAH. For most urban settings we see healthier areas on the edge of cities, places with good access to health services and green spaces, but located away from unhealthy retail services and air pollution.
Rural settings are diverse
We tend to think about rural places as the healthier parts of Great Britain and AHAH reveals evidence for this. For example, we can see in the Lake District that environments perform well given their good air quality and easy access to green and blue spaces.
The healthiest place in England can be found in the Lake District region (South Appleby in Westmoreland). The top 5 healthiest places on AHAH are found in rural areas, often small towns or villages that provide good access to health services as well.
Not all rural areas do well. In particular, very remote places tend to perform poorly on AHAH because they are located so far from health services. This will matter in the event of an emergency or may simple put people off visiting their GP in person (especially if they do not have access to a car). You can read more about this elsewhere on CDRC Data's Stories section.
What will AHAH tell you about where you live?
Our latest version of AHAH provides one of the most comprehensive range of data on the health-related features of neighbourhoods. We hope you can use it, and the range of data available, to see how your local area compares.