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Assessing the health impact of local amenities: a qualitative study of contrasting experiences of local swimming pool and leisure provision in two areas of Glasgow
  1. H Thomson1,
  2. A Kearns2,
  3. M Petticrew1
  1. 1MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, UK
  2. 2Department of Urban Studies, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Ms H Thomson, MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Hillhead, Glasgow G12 8RZ; 
 Hilary{at}msoc.mrc.gla.ac.uk

Abstract

Study objective: To assess the health impacts of local public swimming pool and leisure provision.

Design: Retrospective qualitative study using focus groups. Reports from two areas with contrasting experience of provision of a public swimming pool (opening and closure) were compared within the context of general reports about health and neighbourhood.

Setting: Two deprived neighbourhoods in south Glasgow.

Participants: Local adult residents of mixed ages, accessed through local community groups.

Main results: In both areas the swimming pool was reported as an important amenity that was linked to health and wellbeing. However, few residents reported regular use of the pool for physical activity. Use of the pool facility for social contact was directly linked to reports of relief of stress and isolation, and improved mental health. Pool closure was one in a series of amenity closures and area decline and was used to represent other area changes. Health impacts were strongly linked to the pool closure. The pool opening was associated with local area regeneration, similar but less prominent links between swimming pool provision and health were reported. Health benefits of social contact were diffuse and linked to other local amenities as well as the new pool facility.

Conclusions: Although theoretically linked to increased physical activity, the health benefits conveyed by the swimming pool may be more closely linked to the facilitation of social contact, and a supervised facility for young children. The use of qualitative work to investigate area based change provides rich contextual data to strengthen and explain the reported health impacts.

  • health impact assessment
  • lay reports
  • neighbourhood amenities

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Footnotes

  • * Area names have been changed.

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