Health on the high street

Published: 14 January 2019

Edinburgh has the 'healthiest' high street in the UK, according to a recent report. We spoke to Caitlyn Donaldson, policy and research consultant at the Royal Society for Public Health.

Your organisation in brief?

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is an independent health education charity and the world’s longest-established public health body. We can trace our origins back to 1856.

Our vision is that everyone should have the opportunity to optimise their health and wellbeing. We have over 6,500 members from around the world, publish two international journals and are a national awarding body that provides vocational health-related qualifications. We are based in London and have 42 staff members.

Edinburgh came top as the most healthy high street in the UK. It highlights that the city has a good range of different outlets, and importantly, a good proportion of ‘healthy’ outlets.

Caitlyn Donaldson, policy and research consultant, Royal Society for Public Health

What is this study? What does it measure and why is it important?

We recently published a report looking at the types of outlets on UK high streets and their impact on health. Each outlet was assigned a ‘health’ value, based on its ability to support mental wellbeing and social interaction, provide access to medical advice and services, and support healthy behaviour choices.

Some outlets scored very positively, including leisure centres, libraries, dentists and pharmacies. Others had negative scores, the most notable of which were empty shops, bookmakers and fast food outlets.

We used data on the numbers of each shop present in the main shopping area of the largest 70 UK towns and cities to create a ranking based on the cumulative value of these health scores.

This piece of work is important because it highlights that the high street can support or hinder health through the types of outlet it contains, and notably, in the areas of the UK with worst life expectancy and highest levels of deprivation, the high streets were more likely to be classed as ‘unhealthy’. Our concern is that the high street may exacerbate already entrenched health inequalities in these areas.

RSPH published a ranking of Britain’s major towns and cities by the impact of their high streets on the public’s health and wellbeing, with Edinburgh coming out as the healthiest.

How did Edinburgh rank and what does this say about the city?

Edinburgh came top as the most healthy high street in the UK. It highlights that the city has a good range of different outlets, and importantly, a good proportion of ‘healthy’ outlets.

This ensures that the local population and others visiting the area have the option to make healthy choices and to experience a positive impact on their mental wellbeing whilst visiting the high street.

What is the Royal Society for Public Health calling for and why?

We are calling for a range of measures to support the development of healthy high streets that can compete favourably with online retail. We would like the Treasury to review how businesses are taxed to ensure that online businesses are not put at an unfair advantage compared to the high street.

We are also calling for Facebook and Google to provide discounted advertising opportunities to independent health-promoting businesses and for local authorities to better support meanwhile use of vacant use to keep high streets vibrant.

The full report is available at


If you would like to find out more about how we can help you and your business establish, relocate or expand within the city region, or would simply like more information about what Edinburgh has to offer, get in touch today.



Get in touch

Investor Support Team

City of Edinburgh Council


Latest tweets

follow us @InvestEdinburgh