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About the project

The place where you grow up can determine your health throughout your life: those born

and living in disadvantaged areas are at higher risk of poor health outcomes and reduced life

opportunities. Although we know that early intervention can prevent adult health inequality

there is a gap in the provision and understanding of adolescent needs within integrated care

systems. This project speaks to this gap: it reimagines how we co-create and design

pathways to health by placing young people (age 11–16) from deprived communities in

Southampton at the heart of a network of academics, civic leaders, health professionals,

NGOs, cultural organisations and young people themselves. Young people tell us that arts

and culture are important to their identities and their lives. We are working together to use

culture to create alternative futures.

Despite being in the so-called ‘affluent south’ Southampton is a place of great inequality: 1 in

5 children under the age of 16 live in low-income families and a similar proportion of the

population aged under eighteen live within 10% of the most deprived areas nationally. The

number of looked after children in Southampton is almost a third higher than the average in

England. The effects of deprivation on young people in the city create specific health

challenges which become exacerbated in the adult population. Most critically these relate to

alcohol consumption, mental health, and obesity.

Consultations undertaken in Southampton, as part of its bid to be UK City of Culture 2025,

revealed that access to culture-based health and wellbeing opportunities for young people

are widely divergent across the city. It also demonstrated that young people’s understanding

radically differed from that of the adult population and painted a different picture of the city -

its strengths, its assets and opportunities. This project places this thinking, that challenges

existing approaches and creates opportunities, at the centre as it develops innovative and

creative pathways to change. We are working with young people to understand what culture is

to them and how understanding culture through the eyes of young people might lead to a

reconceptualisation of cultural provision within an integrated care system. We are working with

young people to unlock ‘hidden’ or unofficial cultural assets in their communities. We are

better understanding which cultural assets are associated with positive and negative health

behaviours, and how to support ‘hidden’ or unauthorised cultural assets that can foster

positive community outcomes.

Young people are being trained as researchers and advocates and placed at the centre

of a consortium that includes senior researchers and non-academic partners. We are bringing different services and providers together to learn from young people and from each other to develop best practice and tools for using cultural engagement to improve young people’s

health outcomes and life chances. The project is guided by an experienced, balanced,

transdisciplinary team representing the combination of skills and expertise needed to deliver

our aims. We draw on established leaders with track records of innovation from academia,

the third sector, local government, practitioners, and HIoW ICS, with a shared vision to put

young people at the heart of the ICS to reduce health disparities. Together we are creating a

community cultural asset hub that explores new pathways to health for young people

through the cultures of neighbourhoods.

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