Healthy Spaces & Places Healthy Spaces & Places

Why Health and Planning?

Link Between Health and Planning

Pedestrian Footpath - Nightcliff, Darwin
Pedestrian Footpath - Nightcliff, Darwin
Source: SGS Economics & Planning

The town planning profession arose out of concerns for health and wellbeing mainly from diseases and illnesses associated with overcrowding, poor sanitation, and exposure to environmental pollution.  In the 21st century, town planning decisions can either contribute to growing levels of overweight and obesity, or help to prevent lifestyle-related diseases through facilitating physical activity and positive mental health.  The way cities and neighbourhoods are designed affects whether or not it is easy for people to walk, cycle, to participate in active recreation or use public transport, and to interact with neighbours and other community members:  all activities that contribute to lifelong health and wellbeing.

The National Preventative Health Taskforce established by the Australian Government in 2008 in its Technical Report No 1, Obesity in Australia: outlines a need for urgent action.  Amongst other things, the Taskforce Report presents research into the relationship between obesity and community design suggesting that time spent travelling by car increases the odds of being obese; whereas walking, and living in a mixed land use development reduces the odds. The Taskforce refers to low density, car dependent planning approaches as creating ‘urban obesity-promoting environments’.  The Taskforce Report suggests that what is urgently required is more public transport, cycle paths and footpaths, increased urban density and protected open spaces so that people can readily lead more active, healthy lives.

Design principles for the built environment can contribute to an individual’s propensity to be physically active and may result in improved health outcomes. 

Further Health and Planning Research

Health and Planning PowerPoint presentation

The Built Environment and Walking - Heart Foundation Position Statement

Creating healthy environments 2005

Physical activity and the environment 2008

Urban Planning for physical activity and nutrition 2008

Preventative Health Taskforce

Planning for Health - Public Health Bulletin South Australia

The Impact of Urban Form on Public Health

Last updated on 22nd July, 2009

Sponsors This project was funded by the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing.