This blog is about how urban design affects public health directly or indirectly and some solutions to improve the public health. Lecture on “Urban Design, Health and Wellbeing” was presented by Prof. Tim Townshend in which he covered several positive and negative aspects of built environment in a relationship with public health, and some solutions on basis of existing research and case studies. As we can see in Figure-1 that, there are so many factors like economy, social environment, physical environment etc. decide how the overall public health is going to be in the end. Here in this blog, I will be focusing on an importance of “Green Space” in an urban fabric.
Figure 1: Factors affecting Public Health
Key Issues of Environmental Stressors
Here are some of the issues Prof. Tim addressed in the lecture which needs to be get rid of for healthy built environment.
1) Physical Issues
- Air Quality
- Water Quality
- Traffic/Car Accidents
- Noise Pollution
2) Social Issues
- Detachment from Nature
- Fear of Crime
- Lack of privacy
- Over Population
Green Urban Environment
A green space is, “An area of grass, trees, or other vegetation set apart for recreational or aesthetic purposes in an otherwise urban environment (wiki)”. Nowadays cities are becoming the concrete jungle with high-density built up space which has no space to breath. Cities have become vehicle dominated which put more stress on pedestrians safety and also heavy traffic jams affect driver’s mental health. There are several benefits of having a green space in the urban area.
“Encounters with nearby nature help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. Within built environments parks and green spaces are settings for cognitive respite, as they encourage social interaction and de-stressing through exercise or conversation, and provide calming settings” (depts.washington.edu).
- The experience of nature helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work or studies, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction.1,2,3,4
- Symptoms of ADD in children can be reduced through activity in green settings, thus “green time” can act as an effective supplement to traditional medicinal and behavioral treatments.5,6,7
Water & Land Quality Protection
Green Areas or properly done soft landscaping reduces rainwater surface runoff and it helps to recharge natural underground water storage voids. It also makes the ground more fertile unlike the concrete and asphalt surfaces destroy ground minerals and nutritious. A dense cover of plants holds soil in place, keeping sediment out of lakes, streams, storm drains and roads; and reducing flooding, dust storms.8
Improved Air Quality
Trees, shrubs, and turf remove smoke, dust and other pollutants from the air. One tree can remove 26 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere annually, equaling 11,000 miles of car emissions. One study showed that one acre of trees has the ability to remove 13 tons of particles and gasses annually9. There are several experiments going on some particular plants which can reduce pollutants from an air very effectively. One of those experiments is from the University of Lancaster on “Silver Birch” plant. Click Here for more information on the experiment.
Encouraging social and physical activities
Parks are one of the best places in the city, In which most of the social interaction take place. Even working out in an indoor gym and outdoor gym in the park has a significant difference in our body. The National Child Measurement Programme (NCMP) measures the height and weight of around one million school children in England every year, providing a detailed picture of the prevalence of child obesity. The latest figures, for 2015/16, show that 19.8% of children in Year 6 (aged 10-11) were obese and a further 14.3% were overweight. Of children in Reception (aged 4-5), 9.3% were obese and another 12.8% were overweight. This means a third of 10-11-year-olds and over a fifth of 4-5-year-olds were overweight or obese. (from Public Health England). That happened because children nowadays spend most of their time playing indoor games and watching tv instead of doing outdoor physical activities. More and more events should be held like marathon or bicycle run in parks to promote outdoor activities.
Green Spaces are just one of the elements which can help improving Public Health. There are so many other factors which need attention as mentioned earlier in the article, For making a better livable world for the future generations to come and save our planet from global warming.
Lecture from Prof. Tim Townshend – “Urban Design, Health and Wellbeing”
1. Kaplan, S. 1995. The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward An Integrative Framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology 15, 3: 169-182.
2. Lohr, V.I., C.H. Pearson-Mims, and G.K. Goodwin. 1996. Interior Plants May Improve Worker Productivity and Reduce Stress in a Windowless Environment. Journal of Environmental Horticulture 14, 97-100.
3. Kaplan, R. 1993. The Role of Nature in the Context of the Workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning 26, 1-4: 193-201.
4. Shibata, S., and N. Suzuki. 2002. Effects of the Foliage Plant on Task Performance and Mood. Journal of Environmental Psychology 22, 3: 265-272.
5. Taylor, A. F., F.E. Kuo, and W.C. Sullivan. 2001. Coping with ADD: The Surprising Connection to Green Play Settings. Environment and Behavior 33, 1: 54-77.
6. Taylor, A.F., and F.E. Kuo. 2009. Children with Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders 12, 5: 402-09.
7. Kuo, F.E., and A.F. Taylor. 2004. A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study. American Journal of Public Health 94, 9: 1580.
8. Virginia Cooperative Extension: The Value of Landscaping; http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/envirohort/426-721/426-721.html#TOC