A new report published by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has revealed that the layout of British towns and cities can directly impact our overall health.
Following the comparison of the rates of physical activity, childhood obesity and diabetes in nine of England’s most populated cities, RIBA found a clear correlation between the amount of green space, density of housing in urban areas and the general health of the population.
Among the cities showing the worst records for health and well-being were Birmingham, with the fewest physically active adults, and Liverpool, which is home to both the largest number of obese children and highest rates of those living with diabetes.
Alternatively, Leeds and Bristol were found to be among the healthiest of British cities, with residents leading the most active lifestyles (Leeds) and having the lowest levels of obesity and diabetes (Bristol).
Significantly however, despite being at opposite ends of the spectrum, RIBA’s ‘City Health Check’ report showed that all four towns have plenty of parks. The gulf in health outcomes suggest that the level of physical activity in a particular city depends on the quality as well as the quantity of green space available – people will be more encouraged to go for walks, take their children out, and go running if they live in clean, friendly environments.
Ultimately, RIBA believes better town planning, and “mitigating the impact of a lack of green space and creating environments to support walking”, is fundamental for encouraging people to be more active.
Research showed that 75% of people living in the nine cities surveyed do not meet the Government recommended 150 minutes of physical activity every week, and this greatly increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. This could be cut by 50% if people were to meet physical activity targets.
RIBA’s president, Stephen Hodder said: “At a time of austerity and increased concern with physical and mental well-being, it’s shocking to discover that just by making public health a priority when planning cities, we can save the country upwards of £1bn annually through reduced obesity-related healthcare costs.”
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