A programme set up to tackle health inequalities in some of Glasgow’s most deprived communities has shown early signs of success.

Live Well Community Referral (LWCR) is aimed at removing barriers and helping people to access a variety of local activities and services that can improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

An independent evaluation of the programme has found that more than 200 people have taken part.

Activities included arts and creative workshops, museum visits, walking groups, sports and fitness sessions, family activities, learning and skills classes, and volunteering opportunities. 

Managed by Glasgow Life the programme launched in the Calton area of the city in June 2022. It has since expanded to include Bridgeton, Parkhead, Shettleston and Tollcross due to increased demand.

READ MORE: Glasgow School of Sport announces admissions freeze

The study Carried out by Social Value Lab, it shows 240 people received support as part of the pilot from June 2022 to September 2023 and found that 100 per cent of participants felt their general happiness had improved, while 97% agreed that taking part in activities had helped them to feel less lonely or alone.

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Almost all those who attended activities said they felt listened to, were supported to identifying goals and had become more active and physically connected to people.  

Overall, 95% said that, based on their own LWCR experience, they would recommend the programme to others.

Glasgow has one of the poorest health profiles of any Scottish or UK city. The Glasgow Centre for Population Health reports male life expectancy in the most deprived areas of the city is 15 years shorter than in the least deprived, while the equivalent figure for women is 12 years. 

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The rate of prescriptions and psychiatric evaluations associated with mental ill health is higher in Glasgow than the national average, and lower levels of physical activity, social interaction and community engagement are creating high levels of social isolation and poor mental health. 

Many of these issues have been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, and are putting an increasing strain on health and social care services and other public services such as Police Scotland. 

Referrals into the Live Well programme have been received from a range of partner agencies, including Community Link workers within GP practices, Glasgow Helps and Police Scotland. Participants can also self-refer, with self-referrals accounting for almost 50% of all referrals received. 

The main reasons for referral throughout the pilot phase were to increase physical activity; connect with the community; and improve low mood and mental wellbeing. 

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Evaluation data from the pilot showed 71% of all LWCR participants were female, 66% were aged 35-74, and 36 participants had a disability. Over half of the people receiving support lived in communities ranked among the most deprived 10% in Scotland. 

Glasgow Life’s ambition is to expand Live Well Community Referral to become a sustainable and mainstream, citywide initiative, which could support around 2,500 people each year.  

The charity is now engaging with local and national partners and stakeholders as it looks to secure the external funding required to implement a phased roll out of the programme across Glasgow in 2024. 

READ MORE: Glasgow City Council is asking residents' views on plans

Bailie Annette Christie, Chair of Glasgow Life, said: “Live Well takes a preventative and person-centred approach to tackling health inequality by providing tailored support to assist those people who are least likely, but most in need of engaging with our cultural and sporting activities.

“Whether participants are referred to this service by trusted partners such as GP surgeries, social workers and Police Scotland, or they self-refer, they can be sure our advisers will listen and work with them to identify their wellbeing goals before finding the most appropriate local activities and services that can best support their physical and mental wellbeing.”

Irene Cree, Live Well Community Referral Project Manager at Glasgow Life, added: “Our initial evaluation shows the main reasons Live Well can help people improve their health and wellbeing are around personalised support and the accessibility of activities. Participants are finding out about activities they were unaware of, and also telling us that the help they’ve received is a major factor in their continuing attendance.

“People are supported in different ways according to their need; for example, as well as the existing range of wellbeing activities provided by Glasgow Life and community organisations in the pilot area, we have co-produced three new tailored programmes.

“Our Singing for Fun; Healthy Body, Healthy Mind; and Coffee and Culture initiatives were created in response to a local need for more accessible sessions and they have been really well received. Our Live Well programme reflects Glasgow Life’s unique position as a connector, deliverer and co-producer of wellbeing activities.”