Did the Communities First regeneration programme improve mental health and enhance social cohesion? A natural experiment

Lead investigator
Dr. James White, Cardiff University

The final Wanless Report, published in 2004, noted the “almost complete lack of evidence on the cost-effectiveness of public health interventions”. Designing research into public health urban regeneration programmes is difficult as randomised controlled trials (RCT) of regeneration programmes are often not possible for political or practical reasons. Although many regeneration programmes undergo local evaluation with poor methodological reporting, there is a growing consensus that there are feasible alternatives to RCTs for the evaluation of public health interventions. The Wanless Report and others have hence highlighted the potential of ‘natural experiments’ to evaluate regeneration schemes.

We have the opportunity to construct such a natural experiment. In the Caerphilly Health and Social Needs Longitudinal Study we have already collected two waves of data (in 2001 and 2008) with information on participants’ mental health status and social cohesion, both before and after the Welsh Government’s ‘Communities First’ programme of regeneration interventions in Caerphilly.

Aims & objectives
To investigate whether the Communities First regeneration programme improved mental health, enhanced social cohesion and reduced mental health inequalities.
Study design

Natural experiment, assessing the change in mental health scores and social cohesion associated with the different types of regeneration activities compared to no regeneration.

  • Intervention data received from the Caerphilly council will be anonymously linked to GP mental health data held by the Health Information Research Unit at Swansea University.
  • Datasets will also be anonymousy linked to the small-area deprivation score and the Welsh Demographic Service, to assess the effect of population migration and the impact of the interventions on inequalities in mental health and well-being.
  • Data will be obtained from the borough council on the costs of the interventions, in order to carry out an economic evaluation and assess a measure of ‘value for money’.
Further information & publications
Start date
October 2012
End date
September 2014