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RTPI calls for integrated health and growth planning

Words: Laura Edgar

A local, more integrated and cross-sector approach is needed for better health and growth planning, a Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) expert will tell an international conference tomorrow (June 30).

RTPI research officer Victoria Pinoncely will argue for improved decision-making processes for where health services are planned and located when she speaks to the ‘Achieving Green, Healthy Cities’ conference in Bristol.

Pinoncely will discuss how health services are often designed at a national level away from the environment in which they operate. She believes a more integrated and cross-sector approach at a local level is required.

While there has been a focus on the need for cities to plan for growth, “the value for planning in promoting health is obvious and yet often overlooked,” says the RTPI.

Key facts and figures:

· It is estimated that poor quality housing costs the NHS at least £790m a year (Building Research Establishment, 2013)

· Walking and cycling projects return an average of £13 ($20) in economic benefit for every £1 ($1.50) invested (University of California Active Living research unit 2015)

· Making places better for walking can boost footfall and trading by up to 40 per cent while good urban design can raise retail rents by up to 20 per cent (The Pedestrian Pound: the business case for better streets and places, Living Streets, 2013).

· During a 12-month period, 1.4 million people miss or turn down or choose not to seek medical help because of transport problems (Making the case: improving health through transport, NHS, 2005)

· 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).

Janet Askew, RTPI president, said: “Health problems such as obesity, chronic heart disease, stress and mental health issues are intricately linked to the physical environments in which people live and work. Cities need growth, but at the heart of that must be citizens’ wellbeing. It makes economic sense, and good planning can help to achieve both.”

Askew explained that planners have an important role to play in the battle against diseases caused by stress and lack of physical activity, including making streets safer and more attractive to walk in while locating housing closer to services, reducing car dependency and creating green spaces.

“It is time to put health at the top of the planning agenda,” Askew stated.

The drive towards better health planning builds in the RTPI's 2014 Promoting Healthy Cities report that highlighted how planning offers a long-term, preventative and proactive solution in creating healthy cities.

Pinoncely will also speak about how the responsibility for health should be spread more widely outside healthcare and public service sectors, and she will stress that policymakers need to gather better intelligence on the social and economic determinants of health in order to guide decisions and investments.

She told The Planner: “The RTPI believes that the planning profession can work more closely alongside other sectors - healthcare, food retail, social services, developers, transport providers, schools, employers and regeneration - to positively guide decisions and investments in cities that will result in better health outcomes.”