The Connected Places Award: Morgan Stanley

Award Type: 

  • £600,000 investment in programme
  • 2,000 volunteer hours committed by staff

Bringing improved healthcare, safe play areas and better nutrition to thousands of children in deprived parts of London.


Bringing improved healthcare, safe play areas and better nutrition to thousands of children in deprived parts of London

Global financial services firm Morgan Stanley picks up the Responsible Business Connect Places Award for its efforts to address the poor standards of health and wellbeing in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

This part of London has the highest percentage of both children (39%) and older people (50%) living in deprived households in England, with residents facing multiple health and social challenges, not least of all obesity. In fact, in the borough, almost one in seven children aged 4-5, and more than a quarter of 10-11 year-olds, are obese.  Tower Hamlets has the sixth highest proportion of obese 10-11 years in the country.

Step Forward, is the Morgan Stanley Healthy London initiative focused on tackling the root causes of poor nutrition, while encouraging healthy living and play among children and their families.

Before launch, a six-month research project was carried out by Dr Paul Sacher, an expert in the field of child weight management and health. He spoke with 100 residents and other stakeholders in the area to find out the key challenges when it comes to children’s health. The research findings showed the focus of the programme should not merely be targeted at the children, but also their parents. The view taken was that an holistic approach would see the whole family educated on the need to change diet and lifestyle, resulting in a deeper mindset change. It was also clear that the impact would be greater if the interventions concentrated in the area of Poplar.

The project set out to deliver within two years: 14,000 healthy meals; fitness programmes and health workshops for 3,000 children and families; safe places to play for 2,500 children; access to health education and a community health advisor for 3,000 children and families. 

Morgan Stanley is on track to meet these targets thanks in no small part to the 2,000 hours volunteered by employees and an investment so far of £600,000.

So far, 26,846 meals have been served to local school children in the holiday period, through school based holiday clubs.  Teachers are also reporting an on-going significant improvement in the behaviour, attendance and punctuality of those attending the clubs.

Meanwhile, thanks to the funding of a community health advisor to support parents, 90% say they are now confident in managing their children’s health conditions. Elsewhere, three new play spaces have been created.

“The programme is making a huge difference to people’s lives in Poplar. Focussing on children when lifetime habits are being established ensures that the legacy of Healthy London will be felt into the future.  Hopefully this will also be felt by generations to come, as today's children pass on healthy lifestyle habits to their own offspring,” says Babu Bhatt Acherjee, Director of Communities and Neighbourhoods at Poplar Harca, a local housing association and key external stakeholder brought in to advise on rolling out the initiative.

Community engagement has been crucial to the programme’s success. For example, the local GP and head teacher are included in some discussions, to gather insights and feedback. Different delivery partners also offer their expertise to shape and enhance how Healthy London is implemented and how it evolves in the  future. A health advisor introduced the concept of Health Champions to ensure residents were taking ownership of the issue in their community. MEND recommended that exercise classes were moved from term time into the school holidays to engage more children and increase their activity levels in holiday periods.

"The programme is designed not only to provide a short term solution, but also to embed these processes and mechanisms, thus enabling the community to make a real difference over the longer term and ensuring this a truly collaborative effort for all concerned,” says Clare Woodman, Incoming Head of EMEA.

Due to the success of the programme in Tower Hamlets, the business has now launched Healthy Glasgow in the Sighthill community.