Spatial Planning for Health: An evidence resource for planning and designing healthier places

This resource has been created by Public Health England and University of the West of England. It provides a literature review gathering evidence and case studies about the health outcomes of the environment (built and natural). It explores how aspects such as neighbourhood design, housing, healthier food, natural and sustainable environment, and transport can impact on the health of citizens.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

The management of natural and built environments are place-based and can change considerably from country to country. Therefore, this resource focuses on evidence from the UK. The aim of this resource is to inform action and policy, and it is targeted at policy-makers, planners, community groups, or health professionals.

This resource concludes that although it can sometimes be difficult to quantify the impact that the environment has on the health of its inhabitants, there is extensive research linking these two, as active travel, green space, neighbourhood design, etc. can improve the physical and mental health of citizens (e.g. through physical activity levels, better diets, or clean air).

For example, neighbourhoods can offer people a sense of belonging and social engagement improving their wellbeing, and compact neighbourhoods can also encourage active travel improving physical health. Similarly, the quality and affordability of houses can determine the health status of residents, both physically and mentally. Furthermore, access to healthier foods (proximity and cost) plays an important role in promoting a healthy diet, and consequently on aspects such as obesity and mental wellbeing. Additionally, natural environment can improve wellbeing, encourage active lifestyle, clean the air, etc. and protecting the natural environment is essential to sustaining human civilization. Finally, active travel (cycling, walking and use of public transport) can increase physical activity levels and improve physical and mental wellbeing. Encouraging active travel can also reduce over reliance on motorised transport, contributing to improved air quality and a reduction in road injuries.

This resource also provides case studies for how different initiatives have been implemented in relation to neighbourhoods, housing, food, natural environment, and transport.