Healthy town planning tool hits the streets

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Kings Square cultural precinct redevelopment, City of Fremantle, Perth.
Planners and conference delegates will road-test a new online tool to build physical activity-friendly communities during the Planning Institute of Australia’s National Congress in Perth this week.

A new online tool to help planners and designers improve the health of Australians by building physical activity-friendly communities will be unveiled at the Planning Institute of Australia’s National Congress in Perth this week.

The National Heart Foundation’s new Healthy Active by Design tool will be road-tested by planners and delegates at the Congress from 9th to 11th May.

Created to provide a user-friendly bridge between community design and better health, the tool will be showcased in Joondalup on 9 May when study tour participants cycle between sites.

PIA Congress delegates can also join a Healthy Active by Design “walkshop’’ from Elizabeth Quay to Yagan Square and the Cultural Centre, hosted by the Heart Foundation.

The Heart Foundation’s national spokesperson on Active Living, Trevor Shilton, said it was fitting that Congress delegates should be the first to learn about Healthy Active by Design since planners are at the forefront of efforts to incorporate design features that improve health and wellbeing in cities and towns.

“Rates of overweight and obesity are on the rise,” Adjunct Professor Shilton said. “It’s essential that we provide environments that prevent and reduce the effects of these and other conditions which lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

“Globally, there is strong evidence on the link between health and the places where we live, work and play. Planners are best placed to help create healthier cities and towns, where physical activity is easily achieved every day.”

Healthy Active by Design includes practical guidance on design features, checklists, local case studies, inspiring Australian case studies and examples of projects from around the world, and links to evidence.

It was produced in partnership with a wide range of industry, government, non-government and academic partners.

Professor Shilton said there are excellent examples of healthy design across Australia, but there is still much to learn from experts. For example, Copenhagenize Design Co will provide a keynote address on bicycle urbanization at the Congress.

“Copenhagen has enviable active-transit participation rates, as well as one of the world’s happiest and healthiest communities – we can learn so much from these exemplars,” Professor Shilton said.

“Our Healthy Active by Design tool shows Australian planners ways to incorporate easily achieved elements that can have a significant, positive health and social impact.”

He said good design allowed, for example:

  • families to picnic, play and exercise with their children in parks close to their home
  • parents to feel comfortable letting the kids walk and cycle safely to school
  • residents to stroll to the local shops to pick up some fresh fruit and vegetables, have a meal or shop
  • people to drop around to a friend’s place via quick and easy local public transport;
  • cycling or walking safely and conveniently to work, combining this with public transport.

“The community is likely to be more physically active, socially connected, happier and healthier, and the economy and the environment are also winners,” Professor Shilton said.

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Media contact: Sandy Oliver, Media and Communications (08) 9382 5947 or 0403 348 749.