Urban Planning and Public Health: Revaluing a Legacy from the Past

Urban Planning and Public Health: Revaluing a Legacy from the Past

Urban planning and public health: revaluing a legacy from the past

Thomas Verbeek andLuuk Boelens

Ghent University (Belgium)

Center for Mobility and Spatial Planning

Keywords: urban planning, public health, reconnecting framework

The relation between environmental conditions and human health has since long been acknowledged, both by public health practitioners and urban planners. Historically public health and urban planning were closely interlinked, with modern urban planning originating in the unhealthy and overcrowded industrial cities of the 19th century. In response to problems of poor water supply, inadequate sanitation and air pollution not only infrastructural engineers but also urban designers came into action. Their interventions where so successful that health criteria got largely institutionalized in formal laws and regulations in most Western countries. Despite its achievementsand supported by an institutional separation of both policy fields in most countries, this evolution has undermined the attention for health issues in urban planning. Only through more or less obligatory planning evaluations, like the environmental impact assessment and quantitative risk assessments,health enters the planning processes. These tools are widely criticized for resulting in generic solutions,by restricting analyses mostly to quantitative data, limiting the discourse and practice to experts and treating all populations as similarly susceptible.

Today the impact of the built environment on health and well-being is receiving increasing interest from both public health professionals, researchers and the public. Recent concerns about levels of physical activity, obesity, asthma, mental illness and increasing environmental inequality have put health back on the agenda. Now it is time for the urban planning discipline to take action as well, byreconnectingboth fields to initiate a more health-oriented urban planning approach.

The first part of the paper analyzes how the initial interlinkage between urban planning and health has changed over time. Secondly, a literature study will evaluate an array of concepts and frameworks in the field of urban planning and human health and discuss the existing research on relations between built environment and health. This will finally lead to more specific and relational planning ideas with regard to health, substantiating an operationalreconnecting framework as a base for further (empirical) research.

Preliminary bibliography:

Barton, H., 2009. Land use planning and health and well-being. Land Use Policy, 26(Supplement 1), pp. S115-S123.

Corburn, J., 2004. Confronting the challenges in reconnecting urban planning and public health. American Journal of Public Health, 94(4), pp. 541-546.

van Kamp, I., Leidelmeijer, K., Marsman, G., de Hollander, A., 2003. Urban environmental quality and human well-being: Towards a conceptual framework and demarcation of concepts; a literature study. Landscape and Urban Planning, 65(1-2), pp. 5-18.