While there has been significant investment towards improving the health of Glasgow’s population in recent years, the city retains one of the poorest health profiles of any UK city.

The Glasgow Centre for Population Health reports male life expectancy in the most deprived areas of Glasgow is 15 years shorter than the least deprived. The equivalent figure for women is 12 years.

The rate of prescriptions and psychiatric evaluations associated with mental ill health is higher in Glasgow than the national average.

Lower levels of physical activity, social interaction and community engagement are creating high levels of isolation, which has been exacerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic and cost of living crisis.

Increasingly, health and social care services and the police are spending considerable resource dealing with the consequences of mental distress and loneliness.

These issues are complex, and many require medical interventions, but for people living with anxiety and low mood the support available cannot be limited to prescriptions alone.

It is recognised that participating in cultural activities and regular physical activity is linked to improved wellbeing and positive mental health.

I often talk about the power of culture and sport in transforming people’s lives. We need to reduce our reliance on the NHS and employ a range of cultural and sporting activities which involve building confidence, improving social connections and creating access to nature and greenspace.

More importantly, we need to look anew at how public services work together, with culture and sport playing an intrinsic role in tackling some of society’s fundamental challenges.

The positive results coming from Glasgow Life’s Live Well Community Referral (LWCR) pilot are a step in the right direction.

Launched in the Calton area of the city in June 2022, Live Well is removing barriers and helping people to access local activities that can improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

This includes creative workshops, walking groups, sports and fitness sessions, family activities, learning and skills classes, and volunteering opportunities.

It has since expanded to Bridgeton, Parkhead, Shettleston and Tollcross due to increased demand. More than half the people receiving support live in the 10% most deprived communities in Scotland.

Over 200 people have taken part, with 100% of participants reporting their happiness had improved, while 96% were more physically active and 93% felt better connected to their community. Crucially, 96% agreed they would not have got involved without LWCR support.

Referrals have been received from a range of partner agencies, including Community Link workers within GP practices and Police Scotland. Participants can also self-refer, which has accounted for almost 50% of all referrals.

Live Well reflects Glasgow Life’s unique position as a connector, deliverer and co-producer of wellbeing activities.

It takes a preventative and person-centred approach to tackling health inequality by identifying needs early on; minimising the requirement for more intensive statutory services further down the line.

Our ambition now is to expand Live Well to become a sustainable, citywide initiative, and we are engaging with local and national agencies as we look to secure the external funding that will enable a phased rollout of the programme across Glasgow in 2024.

Bailie Annette Christie is Chair of Glasgow Life and Glasgow City Council Convenor for Culture, Sport and International Relations