In the 19th and early 20th centuries, public health pioneers and urban reformers helped defeat infectious diseases like cholera and TB by improving our buildings, streets and neighbourhoods.
Once again, how we design our cities can play a crucial role in combating some of the biggest public health epidemics of our time: obesity and its related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
City Health Checkexplores the important role that design can play in combating the most pressing public health problems of the 21st Century whilst at the same time delivering savings of £1bn a year for the NHS.
The report looks at London and England’s 8 Core Cities - Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield - highlighting the major health problems facing our biggest cities and outlines a series of actions that developers, councils and the Government can take to help make them healthier places to live, work and play.
Making it Happen
In 2013 responsibility for public health was handed over to local authorities across England, bringing with it new possibilities to join up housing, planning and health strategies in order to encourage healthier lifestyles through healthier local environments.
Our report calls on local authorities to integrate public health considerations into planning policies and programmes and to have a truly joined-up approach to improve their city’s health through the following steps:
- Local authorities that are comprised of less than 50% green space and/or have a housing density of over 5% must produce a Healthy Infrastructure Action Plan as part of their Local in an in conjunction with Health and Wellbeing Boards. They must outline their strategy for making streets and parks safer and more attractive and they must outline the principles they expect new developments to meet in order to gain planning permission.
- Local Authorities that are comprised of less than 50% green space and/or have a housing density of over 5% should redirect a proportion of their Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) receipts to fund their Healthy Infrastructure Action Plan.
We also recognise the crucial role that central government has to play in ensuring that planning policy helps foster joined-up thinking and public health funding is targeted at those places with the worst health outcomes. We recommend that:
- Planning guidance must include guidance as to how planners and developers can aid healthy lifestyles by ensuring places are safe and attractive, to encourage people to walk and cycle more safely.
- Seven of the 10 city local authorities with the worst health performance have not received the higher growth rate (10% or above) of ring fenced grants to spend on public health services. These local authorities should be prioritised in the next round of grants and should use the increase to invest in actions specified in their Health Infrastructure Investment Plan.
To truly transform our cities and make them healthier places, we need to think about how we design and build in health from the outset. Developers and architects need to recognise the responsibility they have in creating healthier environments. We recommend that:
- Built environment organisations, in particular housing developers and architects should commit to pledges 3 and 4 of the Responsibility Deal Physical Activity Network.
- Developers should use the Design and Access Statement to prove how their new developments will benefit public health though their design of the public realm and its links to existing infrastructure. They should identity characteristics of the local area and the view of local people as to what constitutes beautiful architecture and public space.