Health and Urban Planning

1 Health and Urban Planning

Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity. It is important to note that health is not a static state, but rather a dynamic process that is constantly changing. There are many factors that can influence health, including individual behaviors, social and economic factors, physical environment, and access to healthcare. Urban planning can have a significant impact on health. By designing neighborhoods that are walkable, have access to green spaces, and promote physical activity, urban planners can help to improve the health of residents. Additionally, by reducing pollution and enhancing mental well-being, urban planning can create a more livable and healthier environment for everyone.  

 Objectives

  • Recognize the interconnections between health and urban planning
  • Identify the key determinants of health influenced by urban planning
  • Understand the importance of health-focused urban planning strategies
  • Identify key strategies for integrating health into urban planning
  • Evaluate the potential impact of health-focused urban planning strategies on community health outcomes.

 Lectures

Key Takeaway:

  • Urban planning can have a significant impact on health. 
  • There are a number of social determinants of health that urban planners can consider. 
  • There are a number of key strategies for integrating health into urban planning. 
  • Urban planning is an important tool for improving health.

Determinants of Health Influenced by Urban Planning

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life. These forces and systems include economic policies and systems, development agendas, social norms, social policies, racism, climate change, and political systems. 

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Below are some social determinants of health that urban planners think about: 

Economic Stability

  • Income: People with lower incomes are more likely to experience health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, and stroke. This is because they are more likely to live in areas with poor air quality, lack access to healthy food, and have less access to healthcare.
  • Employment: People who are unemployed are more likely to experience health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and heart disease. This is because they are more likely to have lower incomes, lack access to healthcare, and have less social support.

 Education Access and Quality

  • Education: People with lower levels of education are also more likely to experience health problems. This is because they are more likely to be unemployed, have lower incomes, and live in areas with poor air quality.

Health Care Access and Quality

  •  Access to healthcare facilities: People who live in areas with easy access to healthcare facilities are more likely to get the care they need. This can help to improve their health.

Neighborhood and Built Environment

  • Community safety: People who live in communities that are unsafe are more likely to experience stress, anxiety, and depression. This can lead to health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and obesity.
  • Air quality: Air pollution can cause a variety of health problems, including asthma, heart disease, and cancer. People who live in areas with poor air quality are more likely to experience these health problems.
  • Water quality: Water pollution can cause a variety of health problems, such as diarrhea, cholera, and typhoid fever. People who live in areas with poor water quality are more likely to experience these health problems.
  • Noise pollution: Noise pollution can cause a variety of health problems, such as sleep disturbance, stress, and high blood pressure. People who live in areas with high levels of noise pollution are more likely to experience these health problems.
  • Exposure to hazards: Exposure to hazards, such as lead, asbestos, and pesticides, can cause a variety of health problems, such as cancer, neurological problems, and reproductive problems. People who live in areas with high levels of exposure to hazards are more likely to experience these health problems.
  • Walkability: Walkability is a measure of how easy it is to walk around a neighborhood. Neighborhoods that are walkable are more likely to promote physical activity, which can improve health.
  • Transportation options: Transportation options are the ways that people can get around a city. Transportation options that promote walking, biking, and public transportation can improve health by increasing physical activity and reducing air pollution.
  • Housing conditions: Housing conditions can impact health by affecting physical and mental health. For example, homes that are in poor condition can lead to problems such as mold, lead exposure, and pests, which can all have negative health consequences.
  • Access to green spaces: Green spaces, such as parks and gardens, can provide a number of health benefits, including reducing stress levels, improving air quality, and providing a place for people to exercise. People who live in areas with access to green spaces are more likely to be healthy.
  • Access to Food: Food accessibility is important for health because it enables people to eat a healthy diet. A healthy diet is essential for preventing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. It is also important for maintaining a healthy weight and for overall well-being.

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Social and Community Context

  • Social support: People who have strong social support networks are more likely to be healthy. This is because social support can help people cope with stress, make healthy choices, and get the care they need.

Benefits of integrating health in urban planning

  • Improved physical activity levels: Urban planning can promote physical activity by designing neighborhoods that are walkable and have access to parks and recreation facilities. For example, by building sidewalks and bike lanes, and by creating parks and green spaces, urban planners can make it easier for people to get around without cars.
  • Reduced pollution: Urban planning can reduce pollution by promoting public transportation and walking, and by discouraging the use of cars. For example, by building more bike lanes and bus stops, and by making it easier for people to walk to their destinations, urban planners can reduce the amount of traffic on the roads, which can reduce air pollution.
  • Enhanced mental well-being: Urban planning can enhance mental well-being by creating neighborhoods that are safe, walkable, and have access to green spaces. For example, by planting trees and flowers, and by creating safe places for people to gather, urban planners can create a more pleasant and inviting environment, which can improve mental well-being.
  • Increased social cohesion: Urban planning can increase social cohesion by creating neighborhoods that are mixed-use and have a variety of amenities. For example, by building mixed-use developments that include housing, businesses, and schools, and by providing access to parks, libraries, and other community centers, urban planners can create a more vibrant and inclusive community, which can increase social cohesion.
  • Reduced health inequities: Urban planning can reduce health inequities by creating neighborhoods that are accessible to everyone, regardless of income or disability. For example, by building sidewalks and ramps, and by providing access to public transportation, urban planners can make it easier for people to get around, regardless of their physical ability.

Key Strategies for Integrating Health into Urban Planning:

Mixed-use zoning is a planning strategy that promotes a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces within neighborhoods. This can reduce the need for car travel and encourage active living. For example, a mixed-use neighborhood might have a grocery store, a park, and a few apartment buildings all within walking distance of each other. This would make it easy for residents to walk or bike to their destinations, instead of driving.

Complete streets are streets that are designed to accommodate various modes of transportation, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit. This ensures safety and accessibility for all users. For example, a complete street might have sidewalks, bike lanes, and bus stops. This would make it safe and easy for people to walk, bike, or take the bus to their destinations.

Healthy housing is housing that is safe, affordable, and promotes health. This includes housing that is free of hazards, such as lead paint and mold, and that has access to green spaces and other amenities. For example, a healthy housing development might have a playground, a community garden, and a walking trail. This would provide residents with opportunities to be active and connect with their neighbors. https://www.youtube.com/embed/bHV8WfaDnnA

Accessible parks and green spaces are parks and green spaces that are easily accessible to all residents. This fosters physical activity and mental well-being. For example, an accessible park might have wide paths, accessible restrooms, and accessible playgrounds. This would make it easy for people of all abilities to enjoy the park.

Food security and healthy food access is ensuring equitable access to affordable, nutritious food. This can be done through farmers’ markets, community gardens, and healthy food retail initiatives. For example, a farmers’ market might sell fresh, local produce at affordable prices. This would make it easier for residents to buy healthy food. https://www.youtube.com/embed/I_7rzoFzV08

Five Facts About Health and Urban Planning:

  • ✅ A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who live in walkable neighborhoods are more likely to be physically active and have lower rates of obesity, heart disease, and stroke. 
  •  By designing neighborhoods that are walkable, have access to green spaces, and promote physical activity, urban planners can help to improve the health of residents. 
  • ✅  Mixed-use zoning is a planning strategy that promotes a mix of residential, commercial, and recreational spaces within neighborhoods. This can reduce the need for car travel and encourage active living.
  • Complete streets are streets that are designed to accommodate various modes of transportation, including pedestrians, cyclists, and public transit. This ensures safety and accessibility for all users. 
  • ✅ A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that people who live in neighborhoods with more green space are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.

FAQs about Health and Urban Planning?

How can urban planning affect health?

Urban planning can affect health in a number of ways, including by promoting physical activity, reducing pollution, and enhancing mental well-being.

What are some social determinants of health that urban planners consider?

Some social determinants of health that urban planners consider include income, employment, education, access to healthcare, community safety, air quality, water quality, noise pollution, access to green spaces, exposure to hazards, walkability, transportation options, housing conditions, availability of green spaces, access to food, and social support.

What are some key strategies for integrating health into urban planning?

Some key strategies for integrating health into urban planning include mixed-use zoning, complete streets, healthy housing, accessible parks and green spaces, and food security and healthy food access.

What are the benefits of integrating health into urban planning?

The benefits of integrating health into urban planning include improved physical activity levels, reduced pollution, enhanced mental well-being, increased social cohesion, and reduced health inequities.

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