Build it and they will walk: the suburbs that foster good health

Jason Dowling  |  City Editor for The Age

If you design suburbs so walking to public transport, shops and parks is an easy option, people will walk – that is the simple and clear finding of long-term Australian research.

urban sprawl

Health and planning experts are urging governments to make health a feature of planning laws and city growth strategies.

Researchers monitored the amount of walking by more than 1400 people building homes in new developments in Perth. Readings were taken before moving in and about 12 months later.

The results, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, showed transport-related walking declined and recreational walking increased.

Read the full story here


LIVEABLE- “Evolving the density models to address our growing pains”

Like it or not, our population is growing, and the decision makers of society continue to wrestle with the dilemma of accommodating the dreams of this next wave of new home owners. However cracks are starting to appear in the bricks and mortar as society leans on the comfort of conventional housing models.

Beneath suburban utopia’s veneer lie some dark ills that are of grave concern to the social planners and urban designers.  Family violence, youth suicide and mortgage stress have been directly linked with sprawl, and it is evident that the dream is actually unliveable.  Typically attention is turned to the opportunities of densification, however the majority of successful and vibrant higher density models tend to be CBD and inner suburban contexts, with a significantly different demographic profile and a paradigm that is receptive to alternate housing and living models.

This paper aims to better understand the impacts of urban consolidation on liveability by finding common ground between the inner Melbourne and outer suburban Casey contexts, and then articulating where the differences lie, what definitions need to be reconsidered, and how this needs to be physically manifested in the outer model. The study includes an assessment of the raft of benefits of alternate models, which extend far beyond basic higher yields, reaching into the viability of our transit networks, the efficacy of our efforts towards a sustainable city, and the physical and emotional health of our community.

Growth can be in harmony with liveability, and this has a clear built form outcome. Invariably the solutions lie not simply in built form, but in a more foundational shift in the psyche of our society. While not all questions can be answered, the paper seeks to sharpen the dialogue, elucidate the opportunities and pave the first steps for a liveable society.

Nathan Islip, Team Leader – Urban Design, City of Casey will speak at… the 6th Making Cities Liveable Conference, in conjunction with the Sustainable Transformation Conference, is being held from the 17th – 19th June 2013 at Novotel Melbourne St Kilda. The collaboration brings together National, State and Regional delegates to explore, exchange ideas and network.

Two Conferences! Three Days! 90 Presenters! One Location in 2013Healthy

Good planning plus affordable housing equals a liveable city

Carolyn Whitzman, Billie Giles-Corti
Appeared in The National Times – March 16, 2012

We have to tackle the liveability challenges in all parts of Melbourne.

FOR the 80 per cent of us who are urban Australians, we live in confusing times. Our capital cities with their high-quality parks and public open space, good schools, relative community safety and rich options for cultural life rate highly against international counterparts for liveability.

On the other hand, Australian cities have unsustainable per capita environmental footprints compared with other developed cities around the world. We are more car dependent, our cities sprawl over a larger proportion of prime agricultural land, and we have higher rates of obesity than most countries in the world.

Health and wellbeing, liveability and environmental sustainability are all closely linked. All three imperatives call for good-quality affordable housing. But a constant supply of housing alone is not enough for our cities to be healthy, liveable and sustainable.

Read more

Designing Healthy Cities PBS Television Series Preview

“Sustainable Growth ???”

Is there such a process as “sustainable growth”? The term appears frequently in government reports and in company strategic plans. “Sustainable growth” holds out the tantalising prospect that a society can achieve the holy grail of sustainability – the modern term for alignment with environmental imperatives – without forgoing the benefits of economic expansion. These benefits include rising standards of living, full employment, increasing opportunities for investment or professional development – and generally rising wealth for all. 

 “Sustainability” implies a steady-state condition, not one built upon expansion or increasing throughput of material resources, but if it is based upon utilisation of renewable resources, then the steady-state condition may be satisfied. “Growth” is commonly used as a shorthand term for “economic growth” which relies upon geometrically expanding extraction and throughput of material resources, which is unsustainable in a finite planet, but there are forms of community advancement other than “growth” in this material sense.

We need to address related questions such as: Is there any way of decoupling a rise in living standards from throughput of biophysical resources? Is it possible to have rising real wealth other than by accumulating more physical goods which means more demands upon the earth’s resources? Is it possible to slow down economic expansion without risking plunging the economy into recession? The paper is particularly relevant to healthy cities because most expositions of what “healthy” means include an economic dimension. Is there such a thing as a healthy economy other than one that is actively expanding and so placing growing demands upon the resources of the biophysical environment?

Dr Geoff Edwards, Adjunct Research Fellow, Centre for Governance and Public Policy

4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference. The Outrigger Resort and Spa,  Little Hastings St, Noosa – 27-29 July 2011

UP 4 Health Guidelines

The Urban Planning for Health project (UP4 Health) is a Health Promotion response to Australia’s long-term pattern of ‘unhealthy’ urban development. Suburban expansion in Australia, characterised by low density housing, poor public transport infrastructure and stand-alone retail centres, has created a car-dependent society with limited opportunities for physical activity and social interactions. There is a rapidly growing body of evidence demonstrating that this pattern of urban development is a key contributor to our nationwide health problems relating to obesity, tobacco and alcohol consumption.

UP4 Health provides a strategic platform for the Health sector to positively influence the population health outcomes of urban planning processes. The cornerstone of the project is the UP4 Health guide, which was developed to build the capacity of Population Health staff in making submissions on development proposals and plans as well as enhancing their knowledge of the links between health and planning. The guide provides a summary of the key areas that can be influenced, key recommendations for letters of submission and links to other relevant publications.

The UP4 Health project has prompted greater Health involvement in urban planning activities, ranging from broad projects such as the Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036 through to specific master plans and development applications. While it will take a number of years to see the end results of this groundwork, early achievements include the adoption of health-related objectives in key planning documents at both local and state level. These successes indicate that UP4 Health has the potential to contribute to healthier patterns of urban development in the future.

Miss Melissa Palermo, Northern Beaches Health Promotion – NSW Health

This paper will be presented at the Healthy Cities Conference in Noosa in Juy 2011

Smoke Free Public Places – A Healthy Challenge for Local Government

Mr Mark Dwyer, Hobart City Council

Tobacco smoking remains the single greatest preventable cause of illness and death in Australia and the prevalence of smokers in Tasmania is higher than the national average. Research shows that there is no safe level of tobacco consumption and no safe level of exposure to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS). The Hobart City Council has taken a local government leadership role and introduced smoke free public places in Hobart’s CBD. The smoke free areas include two pedestrian malls and a bus mall. The level of acceptance and compliance to date has been quite staggering. However there are some essential steps to take to successfully introduce public programs that reduce tobacco related harms.

This abstract was submitted for the 4th Healthy Cities: Making Cities Liveable Conference. Join the discussion and submit an abstract at