Research into barriers to creating healthy places

Design Council has launched a new research project in partnership with Social Change UK to explore the barriers that stop built environment professionals from creating healthier places through their work.

The collaborative national research survey will help us to better understand the role of built environment professionals – including architects, urban designers, highways engineers and town planners – in addressing health challenges in the UK.

Some of the country’s most pressing health challenges, such as obesity, mental health issues, physical inactivity and the needs of an ageing population, are influenced by our physical environment. With mounting pressure on health and social care services across the UK, preventable diseases such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes continue to account for a large proportion of hospital admissions and care costs.

Design Council wants to better understand what it is that hinders professionals in creating places that help people of all ages and backgrounds lead healthy, active lives, eat well and enjoy their social lives.

Clare Devine, Design Council’s Executive Director for Architecture, Built Environment and Design, believes creating healthier places in which to live and work is an important part of reducing the burden of preventable diseases on individuals, public services and the wider economy.

She said: “There are many good examples of how designers are shaping places that help us all to live healthier and happier lives. However, despite the growing evidence of the vital role placemaking can play in improving health, we are not seeing healthy environments being created at the scale required. We instigated this research as now is the time to tackle these issues through the way we shape our buildings, streets, parks and neighbourhoods.”

The large-scale survey will capture what people working in the built environment currently do to create healthy places and the barriers that prevent them from going further with their work. The research will inform future work to tackle public health issues through development and regeneration.

Kelly Evans, Social Change UK, explained: “While there are many factors that influence the long-term health and wellbeing of the population, a growing body of evidence is showing how the places that people use in their daily lives affect their physical and mental health. We want to know what professionals are doing to help make a positive impact on people and communities – or what is stopping them from putting health into their design plans.”

The survey will close on Sunday 7 May, with telephone interviews carried out during April. The results will be publically available in June 2017.

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