Public health improved if planners and health authorities work closer together, says DSPI academic

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Why are people more unhealthy, and requiring the support of health services, in certain parts of the UK compared to others, and what can be done to tackle any issues?

Dr Ben Chrisinger, a trained urban planner and Associate Professor of Policy-Based Intervention, has put forward suggestions in his article ‘Getting to Root Causes: Why Equity Must Be at the Centre of Planning and Public Health Collaboration’.

He argues that urban planners and public health officials need to effectively work together to tackle society’s most urgent problems – but historical events and policies can sometimes loom large.

‘History shows how these disciplines often default to rather narrow ways of thinking about health and place,’ said Dr Chrisinger.

Social, economic, and political choices make neighbourhoods, but are often missing from planning-health collaborations. 

For example, someone may have type II diabetes and health officials would look at their diet and the kinds of food retailers nearby. 

I’d argue we all need to look closer into why, in an instance like that, some neighbourhoods have healthy food retailers and others don’t, and the policies and practices that lead to this. By doing this, we may make progress on health disparities.'
 

'Nudges practitioners'

 

'I’m hoping the article nudges practitioners and researchers toward broader discussions on why and how unhealthy places exist in the first place.’

Dr Chrisinger added that, faced with issues including inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19, a planning and public health agenda in the UK targeting structural factors was desperately needed, and may provide new opportunities for different ways of thinking for planners. 

Read Dr Chrisinger’s article in the Journal of the American Planning Association (open access)