The launch event of the Town & Country Planning special edition on planning for health and practitioner seminar took place at the TCPA on 1 December 2016. Planners and public health practitioners from all over England came to listen to healthy planning specialists and discussed about the topic.

 

Professor Janice Morphet from the Bartlett School of Planning at University College London held an introduction about reuniting health with planning. She emphasised that there must be a continuing research not only on air quality and street design but also about open spaces and mental health and well-being. New environments should consider a health promoting design but the existing environments must not be forgotten as well. I think it is very important to look on the already built environment because healthy planning was not as significant in the past as it is now. The call for action is probably bigger in places which were created during the time when cities were built for cars. They need to be converted to create a healthy living environment where active travel also will be possible.

 

Afterwards, Laurence Carmichael, Head of WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments at the University of the West of England, was talking about ‘Putting the pieces together in Reuniting Planning and Health’. Public Health Professionals and Planners have to work more closely on a local level in order to increase the ‘local evidence base’ for planning healthy environments. Illustrations from Freiburg, Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark were showing how healthy living and active travel can be implemented which I found very interesting. Laurence also gave examples on how to integrate public health evidence into local planning. Health indicators for example could be used in order to ‘assess how planners and developers are doing in implementing healthy environments’. One instrument for integrating health into planning is the Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which was new to me. I have not heard of the HIA before as it is not being implemented in Germany yet.

 

The next presentation under the title ‘Healthcare insight – addressing place-based challenges in localities’ was held by Nicola Theron, London Area Director at Community Health Partnerships. She presented the NHS Five Year Forward View (FYFV) with a focus on public health and prevention. She also gave examples about innovative solutions for health care centres from Northfield and Nelson.

 

Eike Sindlinger, Senior Architect and Urban Designer from Arup then was presenting ‘Healthy Cities - Masterplanning with human centric outcomes’. I was surprised to hear that more people are dying in the UK because of air pollution than from alcohol and obesity combined. In general, the environment has a huge impact on our behaviour, feelings and health. The benefits of active design and biophilia as well as placemaking can contribute to a healthier life.

 

‘Lessons for capturing benefit of healthy development’ were presented by Helen Pineo, Associate Director – Cities, BRE. She pointed out that it doesn’t cost extra to build healthier places because otherwise there will be much bigger costs to the community if people become sick and cannot work anymore. Walkable communities even increase the value of homes. Decisions for the built environment also have impacts on health, for example there should be more opportunities to buy healthy food in proximity to schools in order to prevent children from getting unhealthy fast food too often. This is a point which I have never thought of concerning planning healthier places. One aspect for a healthier life is the food and drinks that we consume, so it is logical to increase the distance to unhealthy takeaways for example, in order to make them less attractive. But apart from food, physical activity is another important aspect for a healthier life.

 

Dr Dan Masterson, Healthy Urban Planning Officer from Stoke-on-Trent City Council held the last presentation about ‘Uniting health (psychology) in planning’. He introduced Stoke-on-Trent as a healthy city but the health aspects were not considered in planning decisions for many years. Therefore, psychology is needed, in order to understand interactions between individuals and their environment. Health issues also have to be integrated at the beginning of planning processes and need to be considered in development management processes as well, to improve health and wellbeing.

 

In the end, Michael Chang, Project and Policy Manager at the TCPA, announced two new healthy planning projects that the TCPA is going to realise in 2017. Working together with developers should bring a new perspective on building healthy places. This event showed that it is necessary to bring planners and health practitioners together so that they can understand and learn from each other. In my opinion planners should learn more and earlier about the health issues and how planning better places can help to prevent diseases. I haven’t been aware of the fact that health and planning go hand in hand until the end of my undergraduate degree. Health is an important topic that should be considered in every new development as it is not a very new issue since Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City approach dealt with it already more than 100 years ago.

 

 

The special edition of the TCPA’s Town and Country Planning journal on #HealthyPlanning is available to download here.

Those who already participated in the survey about the journal found the special edition about health very useful for their work and would like to see another planning and health special edition in 2017. If you haven’t already, please complete the survey about the special edition journal here.