Putting value on a healthy city
Putting a value on healthy planning is an important step in this mindset shift. It will help cities make stronger investment cases for these kinds of interventions, and help to join up health-based thinking with thoughtful, long-term economic thinking within municipalities. With HCG€, we aim to show cities that there’s not only a well-being boost from healthy planning, but a local economy boost too.
– Ruth Gow, Architect and expert in urban planning and housing
Marking 35 years of its European Healthy Cities Network, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently brought together health experts, urban practitioners, community leaders, and researchers in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
From film screenings to urban safaris, the lively three-day festival celebrated the importance of taking a health-based approach to urban planning and design.
Healthy Cities consultants Amber De La Haye and Ruth Gow were invited to introduce the Healthy Cities Generator, our practical tool for measuring the components of urban health, used in 40+ projects worldwide.
Presenting live on-stage, Ruth and Amber highlighted the latest strand of the Healthy Cities Generator – the economic impact of healthy cities. Developed in collaboration with EIT Urban Mobility, €VALUE (HCG€) is a year-long initiative aimed at integrating economic aspects into health-focused urban planning.
The project’s objective is to develop a digital economic impact analysis module for the existing Healthy Cities Generator tool. This addition will enable cities to quantify the economic impacts of health-focused urban planning, allowing them to make bolder, more confident decisions in urban health, safe in the knowledge that their investment will be returned.
“As we look to the next 35 years of city planning, health must move from a ‘nice to have’ to a default consideration for any new development” said Ruth Gow, architect and Expert in Urban Planning and Housing.
“Putting a value on healthy planning is an important step in this mindset shift. It will help cities make stronger investment cases for these kinds of interventions, and help to join up health-based thinking with thoughtful, long-term economic thinking within municipalities. With HCG€, we aim to show cities that there’s not only a well-being boost from healthy planning, but a local economy boost too.”
For the next year, the HCG€ project will bring together over 16 cities from across Europe to test and develop a new solution for public health. The results promise to help cities understand, prioritise and advocate for urban planning that supports the holistic well-being of their communities.
The conference was also an opportunity to celebrate 35 years of European collaboration on cities designed for wellbeing. Special activities and talks marked the progress made over the past four decades, and pointed to new areas of innovation in healthy city living.
Utrecht’s Urban Safari
Our team joined the urban safari to explore the exciting Merwede district, where health was foundational to the new development of 12,000 residences. Zero car access, green roofs, spaces for local makers and growers, and an abundance of parks – all designed to prioritise walking and green spaces. With 36,000 bike parking spots and extensive local consultation practices, Utrecht sets a remarkable example for creating healthy and sustainable urban environments.
Copenhagen’s Therapy Gardens
A stand-out from the conference was the innovative Therapy Garden programme from the city of Copenhagen. The city has taken the concept of green and blue spaces to the next level by creating a park specifically for therapy sessions. The initiative expands on the de-stressing effects of nature, providing a calming setting for both group and individual therapy sessions.
Kristiansand Community Engagement
Involving local communities in healthy design was a core theme of the conference. One leading approach came from the City of Kristiansand and the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research. Their work explored the concept of social sustainability that can be applied in urban governance and planning practice through a series of pilot projects.
Learn more about the work of the Healthy Cities team
Our Healthy Cities team works with city leaders and experts across Europe to design and make use of healthy urban habitats. Through Europe-leading collaborations like URBACT and individual assignments, they have helped 18 cities in Europe improve health outcomes through good urban design.
Learn more about Healthy Cities here.