Funding body: Wellcome Trust under the 'Our Planet, Our Health' call.
Collaborators: University of Bath, University of Washington, United Nations University, Daniel Black + Associates (db+a).
Dates: 1 February 2016 - 1 February 2019.
The relationship between the built environment and health is
complex. Research in this area does not yield clear results from
methods relying solely on linear causality. However, a consensus is
beginning to emerge, particularly around the need for whole-systems
analysis. Decision makers are increasingly recognising the
importance of investing in cross-cutting strategies, comprehensive
stakeholder analysis and interdisciplinary co-production.
By addressing the urban environment rather than narrowly focusing on healthcare, effective solutions are more likely to be found. Research evidence demonstrating that the physical environment has a direct impact on health is growing. Examples of specific links include:
- density of urban area and car use;
- walking, body weight and carbon emissions;
- quality green spaces, social interaction, greater physical activity and health inequalities;
- land use, connectivity, population density, overall neighbourhood design and physical inactivity;
- active travel and stress.
Though still outside mainstream indices of growth, economic valuation methods attempt to quantify these external costs, linking the quality of urban environment with consumptive behaviours: e.g. the £10.7 bn annual cost of physical inactivity to the NHS for the treatment of non-communicable diseases; £1.12 trn willingness of OECD member states to pay for prevention of 3.5 m deaths caused by air pollution; £1.3 bn annual damages to UK properties from fluvial and coastal flooding; £740 m cost of UK floods in 2007; £4.5 bn cost of flooding to insurers since 2000; £14 trn estimated cost of global biodiversity decline by 2050.
The aim of the project is to make current and future health impacts a priority for strategic decision-makers in urban development planning.
For more details, please email Dr Ben Williams.