ActEarly: a City Collaboratory approach to early promotion of good health and wellbeing

Publication authors

John Wright, Andrew C. Hayward, Jane West, Kate E. Pickett, Rosie M. McEachan, Mark Mon-Williams, Nicola Christie, Laura Vaughan, Jess Sheringham, Muki Haklay, Laura Sheard, Josie Dickerson, Sally Barber, Neil Small, Richard Cookson, Philip Garnett, Tracey Bywater, Nicholas Pleace, Eric J. Brunner, Claire Cameron, Marcella Ucci, Steve Cummins, Daisy Fancourt, Jens Kandt, Paul Longley, Steve Morris, George Ploubidis, Robert Savage, Robert W. Aldridge, Dan Hopewell, Tiffany Yang, Dan Mason, Gillian Santorelli, Richard Romano, Maria Bryant, Liam Crosby, Trevor Sheldon


Economic, physical, built, cultural, learning, social and service environments have a profound effect on lifelong health. However, policy thinking about health research is dominated by the ‘biomedical model’ which promotes medicalisation and an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment at the expense of prevention. Prevention research has tended to focus on ‘downstream’ interventions that rely on individual behaviour change, frequently increasing inequalities. Preventive strategies often focus on isolated leverage points and are scattered across different settings. This paper describes a major new prevention research programme that aims to create City Collaboratory testbeds to support the identification, implementation and evaluation of upstream interventions within a whole system city setting. Prevention of physical and mental ill-health will come from the cumulative effect of multiple system-wide interventions. Rather than scatter these interventions across many settings and evaluate single outcomes, we will test their collective impact across multiple outcomes with the goal of achieving a tipping point for better health. Our focus is on early life (ActEarly) in recognition of childhood and adolescence being such critical periods for influencing lifelong health and wellbeing.