Decision-making for active living infrastructure in new communities: a qualitative study in England

Anna Le Gouais*, Louise Foley, David Ogilvie, Cornelia Guell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
53 Downloads (Pure)


Urban design can influence population levels of physical activity and subsequent health impacts. This qualitative study investigates local level decision-making for ‘active living’ infrastructure (ALI)—walking and cycling infrastructure and open spaces in new communities.

Thirty-five semi-structured interviews with stakeholders, and limited ethnographic observations, were conducted with local government and private sector stakeholders including urban and transport planners, public health practitioners, elected councillors and developers. Interview transcripts were coded and analysed thematically.

Public health practitioners in local government could act as knowledge brokers and leaders to motivate non-health stakeholders such as urban and transport planners to consider health when designing and building new communities. They needed to engage at the earliest stages and be adequately resourced to build relationships across sectors, supporting non-health outcomes such as tackling congestion, which often had greater political traction. ‘Evidence’ for decision-making identified problems (going beyond health), informed solutions, and also justified decisions post hoc, although case study examples were not always convincing if not considered contextually relevant.

We have developed a conceptual model with three factors needed to bridge the gap between evidence and ALI being built: influential public health practitioners; supportive policies in non-health sectors; and adequate resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e249–e258
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Public Health (United Kingdom)
Issue number3
Early online date30 Sept 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Economic and Social Research Council, Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and the Wellcome Trust, under the auspices of the UK Clinical Research Collaboration [grant numbers 087636/Z/08/Z, ES/G007462/1, MR/K023187/1 to ALG and DO]; and the National Institute for Health Research [grant number 16/137/34 to LF]. ALG and DO are supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/6) and Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR), a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence. LF is supported by the NIHR Global Health Research Group and Network on Diet and Activity. No funder had any role in the study design; data collection, analysis or interpretation; in the writing of the report or in the decision to submit the article for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Faculty of Public Health.


  • management and policy
  • physical activity
  • places


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