Health: The Design, Planning and Politics of How and Where We Live

The World Health Organisation identifies the world’s rush to urbanization represents major threats and challenges to personal and public health. It identifies the ‘urban health threat’as three-fold: infectious diseases, noncommunicable diseases; and violence and injury from, amongst other things, road traffic. Within this tripartite structure of health in the built environment are many issues affecting both the developed and the developing worlds and the global north and south.

In informal settlements the poor design and maintenance of sanitary systems is linked with TB, pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease. The industrial expansion of countries like China and India has increased urban pollution exponentially. In the UK, where this event is held, almost 2 million people live with sight loss. Obesity levels are at an all-time high. Dementia is increasing. Heart disease is linked to sedentary lifestyles and asthma has been connected with to traffic congestion.

Our health and how we live in our homes, streets, neighbouroods and cities cannot be divorced. However, the health issues connected to the built environment are also a social and political problem. Demographic changes, lifestyle preferences and government funding priorities all impact the health of life in cities: an ageing population is increasingly house bound; changing neighborhood patterns erode community support systems; investment in roads increases pollution and makes cities less walkable… and more.