WHO event highlights Public Space as An Invaluable Resource to Deliver Sustainable Urban Health

Wednesday, 27 April, 2016

“Smart design and investment in sustainable public spaces can help increase levels of physical activity, reduce traffic injuries, urban violence and urban air pollution including greenhouse gas emissions, both protecting public health and mitigating climate change”. This summarises the key conclusions of a WHO side event at a Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Public Spaces which took place from 4th to 5th April 2016 in Barcelona, Spain. The event provided an opportunity to discuss links between public space, public health and climate change and to identify good practice for, and barriers to, improving public spaces, focussing on case studies featuring recreational public spaces, walking and cycling, and access to local public markets. Participants agreed that “health can be a driver of cost-effective urban planning strategies and related transport mitigation strategies” and that this should be reflected in the New Urban Agenda to be adopted by UN Member States during Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which will be held this October in Quito, Ecuador. 

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare runs the NHS Forest project to promote the active use of green space and blue space (coasts and waterways, such as canals and rivers) as there is overwhelming evidence of the value of the natural environment on people's health and wellbeing, especially in urban areas. The project currently includes 160 sites across the UK, and we have recently set up a number of Green Health Routes so that doctors and nurses across the UK can offer 'Green and Blue Prescriptions' to their patients - encouraging them to walk, cycle and rest in their local natural environment. For more details of the NHS Forest's activities please see http://nhsforest.org/