International
Federation for
Housing and
Planning

Making Cities Healthier

Health concerns have shaped the development of cities for centuries. Waste management, green space, air, noise and light pollution are just some of the issues that affect our collective physical and mental wellbeing. As city populations grow and densify, providing healthy urban environments is becoming increasingly challenging. Not only by focusing on the interdisciplinary approach, but by including citizen participation and empowerment as tools as well.

Members take on Making Cities Healthier

Marcus Grant Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments.

 

  1. A healthy city is a city that strives to use all the policies at its disposal, through all the different sectors to support the community’s health and well being. “
  2. Healthy cities are those whom use a health lens when making investment and policy decisions… it’s about putting people at the centre again, not just the smoke and mirrors of economic policy but the health of people and the community… I think the real change is yet to come.”

Case examples

1. Bogota’s BRT, Cycling and Walking Infrastructure

Bogota, the capital city of Columbia and home to over 8.4 million people would not have been the place to look for healthy city inspiration just 20 years ago. Mired by a corrupt political elite and restrained by the choking fumes of congested highways, many of Bogota’s inhabitants were confined to peripheral slums.

 

That was until two consecutive Mayors; Anatas Mockus (famed for his use of public mimes to shun bad public behaviour) and Enrique Penalosa (famed for his hatred of cars) set out to change the city into a more democratic, equal and healthy society. Their tool? A 3 pronged strategy; Bus rapid transit, cycle and pedestrian only infrastructure and motorized vehicle restriction. From 1998 Bogota embarked on a public transit transformation, building 84 dedicated citywide bus lanes, 376km of cycle lanes and 78km of pedestrian only walkways. Additionally, the city increased taxes on vehicle fuels, restricted car movement in rush hours and closed city center roads to traffic on Sundays.

 

The result?  A daily BRT passenger count of 1.4 million people and a reduction in average journey times by 39%. More than good transportation statistics however the city was liberated from the polluted grasp of car based traffic jams. Poor inhabitants were able to travel without fear, (crime in the areas surrounding BRT routes reduced by 89%) reaching previously inaccessible areas safely (road traffic accidents reduced by 80%). Unemployment rates fell as accessibility increased, children could also better get to school (school enrollment increased by 35%) and with finances redirected from unwanted highway expansion projects, 1200 public parks were developed or restored and vital infrastructure was provided to previously deprived areas.

 

With the absence of direct health statistics it is widely reported that the resulting pollution reductions, improved accessibility to active forms of transport and increased access to new urban areas, employment opportunities, parks and green spaces has led to a marked improvement in quality of life levels, productivity, prosperity and healthy lifestyle choices of many of Bogota’s inhabitants.

 

Read more about the Bogota case:

 

2. Stoke-on Trent Health Impact Assessment in Urban Regeneration

Health impacts are a consequence of all planning actions. Be it as a direct result of a specific design or through secondary behavioural effects, the choices that urban planners make affect society for better or worse. To help understand, manage and plan for such effects Stoke on Trent, an old coal mining town in the West Midlands of England with a population of 250,000 inhabitants, has adopted the use of Health Impact Assessments (HIAs). Like many cities across the UK and Europe, Stoke has struggled to compensate the decline of it’s manufacturing industries with many low standard dwellings and terraced housing dating back to 1960s in need of regeneration and repair.

 

HIAs are applied as a tool to all major regeneration projects in the city. Their purpose is to support decision making processes by providing systematic and evidence based analysis of the potential impacts of development. In essence their application holds a health lens over the planning process, allowing all stakeholders to better understand what impacts their project will have in reducing urban health inequalities.

 

It has been found that the HIA approach has provided a practical platform to engage stakeholders, increase ownership in local projects and highlight the importance of health based planning. Facilitated by a municipal ‘Health Officer’, Stoke on Trent’s planning authorities are now strong advocates of health based city planning. HIAs are included in an action plan to tackle housing and homelessness issues as well as implementation in a number of local master plans.

 

 

IFHP best Healthy City reads

Books

>> Jason Corbum (2013) - Healthy City Planning: From Neighbourhood to National Health Equity (Planning, History and Environment Series) 

 

Downloads

>> Closing the Gap in a Generation – Social determinants of health - led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot for the WHO

>> LSE Cities (2011) - Cities Health and Wellbeing - Conference Report

>> Royal Town Planning Institute (2014) - Planning Horizons, Promoting Healthy Cities

>> Center for Liveable Cities (2014) - Creating Healthy Places Through Active Mobility

 

Links

>> WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environment

>> Community Champions