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Moving Forward - Pilton Community Health Project

The ‘Moving Forward project within the Pilton Community Health Project (PCHP) carried out a piece of participatory action research that explored and sought to address the deeper issues preventing people in North Edinburgh from taking part in regular physical activity.

***PAHA Award Winner 2014***

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How It Started

The physical activity arm of PCHP started in 2002, and was funded through the Health Improvement Fund (HIF) from NHS Lothian. HIF monies are allocated to address health inequality in areas of multiple socio-economic deprivation.

The main aim of the project was to increase the number of local people engaging in regular physical activity by addressing barriers to participation (e.g. cost, childcare, transport).

At the time the project began there was little provision locally and the project has delivered thousands of physical activity sessions; encouraging and enabling hundreds of local people to be more active.

Ongoing evaluation revealed a decline in the number of new participants accessing project activities. Although successful, activities have been increasingly attended by the same people week after week.

This led the project to consider the question ‘How do we engage with people not already accessing the project’ and thus decided it was time to: carry out a project review; assess the approach; work with the local people to look at the bigger picture; and investigate ways to increase participation.

The main aims of the review were;
- To identify current local opportunities through a physical activity mapping exercise. Information collated would be used to develop an online interactive resource.
- To identify the wider issues preventing people from leading a more active life.
- To identify the best approach to address the issues and increase local physical activity participation.
- To use a community development approach by working with and increasing involvement of local people in the project to develop an action plan.

Partners Involved

The review process has had full support from senior management with PCHP, as it fits in with the organisations overall objectives relating to increased community engagement.

The HIF link officer, a Senior Health Promotion Specialist, recognised the need for a revised approach in order to address local inactivity and the opportunity to link in with other City wide policies and strategic activities, such as the Edinburgh Physical Activity and Sport Strategy, which is lead by the Edinburgh Physical Activity Alliance.


The programme adopted an assets based approach, recognising and building on the skills and knowledge existing in the community to increase local participation in PA.

Initial engagement sessions were carried out involving approximately 170 local people. This included visiting around 19 local groups of people who didn’t already access PCHP services asking broad questions and spending time in public places ‘listening’ out for common issues. The responses from these sessions enabled key themes for action to be identified.

A number of codes; visual images encapsulating these main themes, were developed to explore the issues in more depth. These included two photos, a cartoon and a video clip of the Pilton gala in 1953.

Two ‘Digging under the Issues’ workshops were held, each with 12 local people. The workshops explored the root causes and impacts of each theme and a discussion of possible solutions. The workshop outcome was a list of key questions that summarised the issues and that, if answered, would ultimately address some of the key underlying causes of inactivity.

Local people attending the workshops as part of the review, having explored and described their experiences of the area and issues relating to physical activity, produced a variety of interesting and exciting ideas to address the issues and themes identified.

Results and Impact

The findings from the review have been instrumental in highlighting local needs to input into the Edinburgh Active Travel Action Plan marketing strategy and the development of community consultancy guidelines for the first in Scotland, Local Authority ‘Street Design Guidance’ to promote more walkable environments and prioritise pedestrians in planning. The findings have also been vital to input into the Physical Activity and Patient Pathway planning under the NHS Lothian CEL 01 (Health Promoting Health Service), in regards to understanding the lived experience and perceptions of health professionals of local people in the area.

The review has also attracted a number of new potential local partners interested in getting involved in the projects new objectives. Furthermore, senior level buy-in to the forum (NEPAF) is strong and growing in numbers each month showing that the programme’s success in encouraging a partnership approach.

The review has been instrumental in providing Moving Forward with a clear set of objectives, each of which seek to increase physical activity participation in the local area.

Local people are now involved in developing an action plan in collaboration with local and city-wide partners such as Spartans Football Club, Edinburgh Leisure and Edinburgh Lothian Greenspace Trust through the forum (NEPAF). This ensures local participation and influence in decision making processes as well as taking a lead in delivering and owning the plan as equal partners. The process is significant in sharing effective approaches about what works and why, in areas of disadvantage from a local community perspective.

Two local women from the BME communities are being supported (training, publicity and mentoring) by Moving Forward to launch their own informal dance activities, ‘Halima’s Move & Groove’ and the ‘North Edinburgh Bollywood Dance Group’, to help address the reduced sense of community (a theme identified in the research).

It is anticipated that more local people will be identified/identify themselves as potential community leaders and will be supported by the project to start informal physical activities. Collectively, the ‘PA volunteer community’ will contribute to providing local people with the opportunity to increase their PA levels, their knowledge and awareness about local opportunities and what constitutes as physical activity.

Lessons Learned

The initial decision to adopt a new approach, changing from session delivery to community development was not easy. There was an element of risk involved and this raised a number of concerns about its success.

The transition required to make the existing programme self-sustaining was extremely sensitive. Some activities had been supported by the project for as long as 10 years and had high levels of dependency. However, this was crucial in order to provide the resources required to carry out the review.

It was quickly realised that the consultation was one of several taking place locally at the same time. This obviously raised concerns about ‘over-consulting’ people and questioning ‘how to make ours stand out’? There were concerns local people might not respond to questions if they thought it was just another survey with no real follow-up.

As the review progressed, so did the realisation that it was the correct decision. Involving local people in identifying and addressing common issues had already increased community involvement in the project.

The whole process confirmed that the key to increasing local participation in physical activity lies in empowering local people, utilising the skills and knowledge that already exist in the community and building on what already exists. This approach will be central to the future work and ethos of the project.

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Lead Contact Name

Lianne Pipskyj


Physical Activity Project Coordinator


Pilton Community Health Project (PCHP)

Phone Number

0131 551 1671

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