Bathing facilities and health phronesis: tackling English obesity

Research output: Working paper/PreprintWorking paper


The Coronavirus pandemic has raised questions about public health system fragility or lack of health phronesis (practical wisdom). The UK is one of the unhealthiest developed nations on the planet with over 35% of its population projected to be obese by 2025. Notwithstanding, local sports infrastructure is patchy, raising the spectre of ‘accumulation by dispossession’. To investigate English obesity problem and its eu̯daemonic impediments the study ignored lines of inquiry involving confectionery vested interests. Instead, it focused on bathing amenities that, since antiquity, signal civilisation. The phronetic bathing health research involved five sequential phases. First, the health issue was identified (1) and then bathing facilities put into historical context (2a). A structured literature review of contemporary facilities and health associations (2b) provided the backdrop for subsequent nomothetical (3a-e) and idiographic investigations (4a-c). The mixed research strands were finally synthesised (5). Statistical analysis of English local area standardised mortality (2013-2017) found a significant association with pool sparsity, controlling for deprivation, obesity and other environmental factors (3a-b). Longitudinal time series modelling of English swimming pool construction data since the Victorian era found that, recently, it has become erratic and diverges from its GDP and population growth fundamentals (3c-e). Idiosyncratically, the study considered three case studies, looking for qualitative insights (4). The closure of Bromley Lido in 1983 raises suspicions that short-termism or agency issues usurped public health phronesis (4a). In Cirencester, mistrust lingers about the privileged beneficiaries of local leisure service outsourcing (4b). An exemplary German pool complex in Ludenscheid illuminates comparative UK public bathing infrastructure deficiencies and intimates paradigm myopia or managerialist neglect (4c). Although the study is preliminary with acknowledged limitations, the literature reviews, nomothetic analyses and case studies impel phronetic deliberations to re-calibrate investment towards ecological public health and resilience in post-COVID ‘doughnut’ economy
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusSubmitted - 4 Jun 2020


  • Public health
  • Built environment
  • Obesity
  • Time series forecasting
  • Statistical analysis
  • Sport participation management
  • public/private spaces
  • government failure
  • Idiographic
  • Nomothetic

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Administration
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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