As we all know, there are many links between health and the built environment. But during the recent decades, the links have not been focused on. The contemporary health issues become more complex and seriously. Health and well-being are different in some factors. WHO (1948) defined health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being” (Abraham, 2016). However, health is defined medically. Well-being can be kept by happiness and satisfaction with life and positive psychological function and human development. Well-being offers a de-medicalized concept of health (Dodge, 2012). The flourishing is gained from encompasses, mental and physical health, happiness and life satisfaction and good social relationship. In addition, therapeutic landscape can promote feelings of health and well-being.
Urban health issues
When I was young, the water is still clean and the air is still fresh. Unfortunately, with the development of technology and the busy urban life, the car exhausts, air conditioning exhausts and other waste gas lead to the air pollution. Air pollution increases in respiratory disease, heart disease, birth defects, poor childhood development, cancers and dementia. It is the urban problem which influence the human health and life seriously, specially in China and other developing countries.
Air pollution in China
Water pollution increases the waterborne disease. Development of cities and busy life leaded to the reducing of physical activity, which link to obesity and thereby type-II diabetes cancer, heart disease. Lack of green spaces also leaded to the increasing of stress. The car focused design was one of the causes of the issues. Increasing number of cars became a threaten to the safety. In UK children in the 10% most deprived wards are 4x more likely to be hit by a car than those in the least deprived (Public Policy Research, 2002). How to solve the problem of pollutions? Increasing urban density could also increase exposure, so the strategies to control air pollution need to be addressed more than land use or density. The solution must be connected to cleaner vehicle technology and the increasing of active travel.
Focus on the needs of the car rather than the human has created environment which are not supportive of active, health lifestyles. Physical activity has dropped over 30% in last 50 years in US. In China, it has dropped 45% in last than 20 years.
Traffic in Beijing, China
What could encourage physical activity? In order to encourage physical activity, we need to create walkable (cycle-able) neighborhoods by considering objective measures and perception. Objective Measures include density, well-connected streets, mixed land-use, public open space, pleasant environments and good public transport. Perception include safety, availability of facilities and convenience (Townshend, 2014). It is hard to produce the private and public space issues. Residential density is a significant factor. Besides, good-quality public realm supports higher levels of walking and physical activity. The main issues include legibility, distinctiveness, accessibility, comfort and safety (Townshend, 2014). Inactivity and physical health is only part of well-being and flourishing. Mental and social well-being are also important.
There is a relationship between the green space and health and well-being. Green space improved mental health, social cohesion and air quality and increased physical activity. Walking is for pleasure. Green space is access correlated. Exercise on the green space is more beneficial than exercise in other settings (Giles-Corti & Donovan, 2003). Green space – provides setting for and encourages social interaction. Quality of streetscape greenery linked to perceived social cohesion (de Vries et al., 2013). Urban green spaces such as parks and sports fields as well as woods and natural meadows or other urban ecosystems represent a component of any urban ecosystem. Green urban areas also form a refuge from noise. As we all know that trees produce oxygen and help absorb harmful air (WHO, 2017).
Altlanta © 2015, Gene Phillips/AtlantaPhotos.com
The best way to improve health and well-being is to talk to the nature. For urban designing, the links between health and the built environment are important. Only focus on the need of vehicle technology rather than physical and mental needs of human cannot lead to the flourishing of an urban space. To gain the purpose of good well-being and health, we need to solve the basic problems. Increasing the green urban areas is one of the solutions.
Abraham, C. et al. (2016) Health Psychology. New York: Routledge. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=0Zz7CwAAQBAJ&pg=PA2&lpg=PA2&dq=Health+-WHO+(1948)+define+health+as+%E2%80%9Ca+state+of+complete+physical,+mental+and+social+well-being%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=h5y0yDlycv&sig=-xYyzvFFXUKZcpyCuG5-tweuhHw&hl=zh-CN&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiJ2faK_LTYAhUGPVAKHTNFC94Q6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=Health%20-WHO%20(1948)%20define%20health%20as%20%E2%80%9Ca%20state%20of%20complete%20physical%2C%20mental%20and%20social%20well-being%E2%80%9D&f=false
Dodge, R., Daly, A., Huyton, J., & Sanders, L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing, 2(3), 222-235. Available at: https://www.bitc.org.uk/sites/default/files/the_challenge_of_defining_wellbeing_-_dodge_et_al_2012.pdf
Public Policy Research (2002) Streets Ahead: Safe and livable streets for children. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=zh-CN&lr=&id=xvio6rVGcmMC&oi=fnd&pg=PA26&dq=Public+Policy+Research+(2002)+Streets+Ahead:+Safe+and+livable+streets+for+children&ots=ua2uKHKmMZ&sig=Ts2FltivrgfWWfB831P0Vdb10QA&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Public%20Policy%20Research%20(2002)%20Streets%20Ahead%3A%20Safe%20and%20livable%20streets%20for%20children&f=false
Townshend, T.G. (2014) Walkable Neighborhoods, in Cooper et al., Wellbeing and the Built Environment, Wiley Blackwell.
Giles-Corti & Donovan, (2003) Relative Influences of Individual, Social Environmental, and Physical Environmental Correlates of Walking. American Journal of Public Health. Vol 93, No. 9. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10588581_Relative_Influences_of_Individual_Social_Environmental_and_Physical_Environmental_Correlates_of_Walking
De Vries, et al., (2013) Streetscape greenery and health: Stress, social cohesion and physical activity, Social Science and Medicine, 94 26-33.
WHO (2017) World Health Organization. Urban green spaces. Available at: http://www.who.int/sustainable-development/cities/health-risks/urban-green-space/en/