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Planning is critical to a healthy urban future

07 October 2014

Planners have an important role in the battle against ‘lifestyle diseases’ highlighted in a new report, entitled, ‘Promoting Healthy Cities’.

The rise of health challenges such as non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health could cost £28 trillion globally, over the next 20 years according to the World Economic Forum (2011).

As the costs linked to health conditions are increasingly unsustainable and are expected to increase in the future, we need to adopt a response fit to deliver a long-term, preventative and proactive response to promote healthy UK cities.

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Launched today (07 October) at the RTPI Scotland Annual Conference, Promoting Healthy Cities calls for UK nations to:

• Develop more integrated strategies for healthy placemaking; this may require revisions to the way in which decisions on the location of health provision are planned

• Gather greater intelligence on the social and economic determinants of health in order to guide decisions and investments of planners and policy- and decision-makers in their areas

• Reform and strengthen institutions to ensure integration of health policies

• Involve professions and communities as poor health outcomes also arise from many communities’ lack of power and control over their environments.

Cath Ranson, President of the RTPI said: “This report makes the link showing how the built environment, infrastructure and where we live, work and spend leisure time, can have an enormous effect on our health and wellbeing.

As our ways of living are becoming more complex, we need to develop more integrated strategies for healthy placemaking. That may involve providing space for walkers and cyclists, provision of play spaces and green spaces, access to healthy food, or enabling cooler environments for people where temperatures may rise. Health and wellbeing need to be at the core of how we design and develop cities.”

The RTPI believes that working alongside other professions together with those involved within the planning process can positively guide decisions and investments in cities that bring opportunity for better health outcomes where we spend our time. Those other professions include people working within healthcare, social services, housing, transport, education, employment and regeneration as well as policy developers and decision-makers in the locality.

The Promoting Healthy Cities paper contains a number of facts and figures on the scale of the problem faced in the UK, for example:

• It is estimated that three in ten people live in bad housing in the UK (3.6m children, 9.2m working age adults and 2m pensioners), (Source :NatCen, 2013)

• Estimated poor quality housing costs the NHS at least £790m per year (Source : BRE, 2013)

Promoting Healthy Cities, is the third in a series of five ‘big picture’ papers (branded ‘Planning Horizons’) published by the RTPI. It is global in scope but contains messages that will resonate with policy-makers at every level of governance.

You can download the documents from the RTPI website here. You can also hear the author, Victoria Pinoncely, outline the paper, in the podcast.

The first paper in the series, Thinking Spatially, was published on 4 June and can be downloaded here. The second paper in the series, Future-Proofing Society, was published on 24 June and can be downloaded here.