Belfast Healthy Cities’ first training programme on ‘Healthy environments: healthy lives’ took place over five days in March – June 2009. It built on previous successful training programmes, and the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, Closing The Gap in A Generation (2008)
- strengthen understanding of the concept of healthy urban planning, and how the built environment can improve health and health equity
- provide practical experience and innovative ideas, and
- offer an opportunity to explore how health and health equity can be integrated into all local policies.
The training programme was aimed at politicians, middle management professionals in fields including planning, regeneration, housing, local government, health and the community and voluntary sector. It provided a unique opportunity to build knowledge of a rapidly developing, cutting edge field.
All days included a site visit with a series of options that will provided practical evidence and experience relevant to the topic of the day.
Day 1: Introduction to health, planning and sustainable development
Historically, town planning and public health originated together, as a result of growing concern over poor quality of life in Victorian cities. The concept of healthy urban planning was developed by WHO to help reconnect planning and health, which over time have separated into virtually unrelated fields. The day provided an introduction to the historical links between health and planning, consider the challenges and opportunities in improving health through the built environment and introduce tools for integrating health into policy development and decision making.
Day 2: Sustainable communities: Open space and transport
Creating sustainable communities is a key aim of sustainable development strategy in Northern Ireland as well as throughout the UK. This day looked at how to achieve sustainable communities, with a focus on how open spaces and transport can improve health and health equity, while exploring how best to maximize the potential health and health equity benefits.
Day 3: Regeneration, urban design and liveability
Regeneration offers a major opportunity to create healthy environments and sustainable communities. Effective urban design can foster a sense of community and place and influence how we move around in towns and cities. This day provided an overview of different regeneration approaches, the social and health impacts of regeneration and how it impacts in Northern Ireland. It will also gave a concrete insight into how urban design can be used to create opportunities for healthy living.
Day 4: Housing and health
Decent warm, safe and affordable housing is a prerequisite for physical and mental health. Appropriate housing meeting specific needs can also support people to live independently. Participants had the opportunity to learn more about the links between health and housing, housing needs and provision in particular for vulnerable groups, with a specific example of how tackling fuel poverty can contribute to health and health equity.
Day 5: Climate change
There is now a range of targets for cutting carbon emissions by 2050 to mitigate climate change, and the sense of urgency in taking action on both mitigation and adaptation is increasing. This day considered the impacts of climate change and the role of organizations and individuals in tackling it, with an emphasis on the role of the health sector. Specific focus was put on food and waste management; on how food security may be affected, how food production affects climate change and how waste management can help mitigate against it.