Inquiry into Environment Design and Public Health in Victoria 2012

Doctors for the Environment Australia made a submission  to this Inquiry which was prepared by Dr Marion Carey. The Report is now available and its findings are discussed by Dr Eugenie Kayak

By ensuring health is a primary consideration in the built environment design there are many gains to be made.  There is the potential to influence in profoundly positive ways: the state of our health, our ability to maintain a high standard of health care, and our environment.  Recently the Victorian Government published its final report following an extensive consultation process, in which DEA participated,  on its ‘Inquiry into Environmental Design and Public Health in Victoria’.  An extract from the Executive Summary can be read below with the full report publicly accessible.

The report is long but has chapters addressing; Contributing factors to chronic disease, Urban growth and public health, Health in planning, Parks and open spaces and Active transport.  DEA’s submission and transcript has been referred to repeatedly in the report (as have those of many other highly regarded researchers and public health leaders.Read here

Executive Summary extract…

Future challenges for public health

In  today’s developed world, more people die from chronic disease than infectious  disease.  Chronic  conditions  including  type  2  diabetes,  cardiovascular  disease, mental illness and respiratory illness now account for the highest social  and  economic  burden  on  the  Victorian  healthcare  system,  and  their  rates  are predicted to rise.

Many chronic diseases are preventable. There are several risk factors that make people more vulnerable to chronic disease including obesity, levels of physical activity, diet and alcohol consumption, and socio‐economic status. The interaction and combination of these factors can increase the likelihood of chronic disease.The development and severity of chronic disease can be attributed partially to lifestyle choices. However international and Australian evidence shows that the built environment plays an influential role in encouraging or discouraging healthy behaviours.

Other significant future challenges to Victorians’ health include a rapidly growing population in outer suburban locations, an increasing ageing population and the potential environmental consequences of climate change. Effective urban planning likewise has a key role to play in mitigating the negative health effects of all these trends.

Contributors to this Inquiry consistently emphasised that the Victorian planning system  needs  to  be  better  integrated  with  health  and  wellbeing  goals.  The overarching legislation for state planning – the Planning and Environment Act 198–does not directly engage with considerations of health.

Opportunities to incorporate health throughout the planning system are  considered,  including  reviewing  Precinct  Structure  Plans,  involving  health  professionals in the precinct structure planning process, and incorporating health impact assessments into major planning decisions.

Higher densities and mixed land use can offer many health co‐benefits, such  as  attracting  a  diverse  variety  of  ages  and  cultures  within  a  community, attracting better active transport networks to accommodate more population, and  providing economic incentives to develop local shops and destinations.

This  report  emphasises  two  particular  elements  of  the  built  environment  that  promote healthy lifestyles choices: parks and other public open spaces, and active transport modes (walking, cycling and public transport).

Tags Built environment, parks , healthy lifestyle, urban density, urban planning, urban growth, transport, chronic disease

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