Healthy places, healthy people – applying Scotland’s Place Standard tool


Participants at the Edinburgh workshop gained first-hand experience with The Place Standard Tool, through conducting their own assessments using the tool and then analysing them.

Public health experts, focal points from the WHO European Healthy Cities Network, academics, architects and urban planners gathered in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, on 27−28 September 2017 for a workshop and masterclass on the Place Standard tool.

Developed in Scotland, the Place Standard tool provides a framework for assessing places, whether they are well-established, undergoing change or still in the planning stages. The tool, which can be used online or on paper, consists of 14 simple questions, which range from the topics of feeling safe to traffic and parking to social contact.

The user rates their answers on a scale of 1 to 7 using a specially prepared diagram. These answers then offer a detailed picture of whether a place is fulfilling the needs of those who use it and supporting their health and well-being.

The workshop and masterclass was kicked off by Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in the Scottish Government, who said, “New communities have to provide economic and social opportunities for their residents – and they have to meet our aspirations for greener lifestyles. In any new development the aim should be to address these many important issues at the same time”.

Simple but effective

The participants experienced the Place Standard tool first-hand when they went out and conducted their own assessments, which were analysed the following day. Belfast City councillor Geraldine McAteer, who is also Chief Executive of the West Belfast Partnership Board, echoed the views of many participants when she commented, “Actually using the tool for ourselves really brought home how simple but effective it is. This could be extremely useful in a great many contexts”.

The tool was developed jointly by NHS Health Scotland, Architecture and Design Scotland and the Scottish Government. It has been widely used in Scotland, as well as being piloted in the Netherlands.

“Nobody knows a place better than someone who lives, works or plays there,” said Monika Kosinska, WHO/Europe’s Regional Focal Point for Healthy Cities. “Yet, it can be difficult for individuals, organizations and communities to communicate their knowledge to other stakeholders in a useful way. The Place Standard tool creates common language and common ground, and we at WHO/Europe look forward to exploring how it can be deployed across the Region to help tackle inequalities.”

The Healthy Cities Network spans 1300 cities in which 165 million people live. The network is dedicated to improving health and well-being by reducing health inequalities and improving leadership and participatory governance for health. 2018 marks the 30th anniversary of the WHO European Healthy Cities Network and will culminate in an international conference in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom.