Thursday, 21 April 2016

Successfully reuniting planning and health

Posted by Tim Townshend, Fuse Associate and Acting Head of School, Director of Planning and Urban Design at Newcastle University

On Thursday 7 April I chaired an event that was jointly a Fuse Quarterly Research Meeting (QRM) and the fourth in the ESRC funded seminar series entitled ‘Reuniting Planning and Health’. It was the culmination of quite a few months of preparation and though it’s not the first such event I’ve organised it’s always a bit nerve-racking on the day – will all the speakers arrive? Will the participants enjoy themselves? Will lunch be any good?! As it was I needn’t have worried about a thing.

The day kicked off with a great overarching review of the need for planners and health professionals to work more closely together from Laurence Carmichael, Head of WHO Collaborating Centre for Health Environments – showing that while there is a lot of momentum behind the initiative there is much work still to be done. We then went north of the border with a presentation from Etive Currie, Glasgow City Council, who has been working on healthy planning initiatives for many a year – Etive’s presentation was full of amusing anecdotes about how local communities are not always initially receptive to such ideas! However there were also lots of really good news stories about individual lives that had been turned around. This was followed by Lee Parry-Williams, Public Health Wales, who gave a very informative overview of progress with Health Impact Assessment (HIA) in Wales – and also some insights into how political rivalries can stand in the way of real progress!

After a short coffee break, we had three further keynotes, Prof Ashley Cooper, University of Bristol – gave an excellent presentation setting out the complexity of linking children’s activity patterns to the built environment – it clearly demonstrated that for planning to deliver environments that are more supportive to healthy lifestyles, the research behind interventions needs to be extremely robust. Lesley Palmer – Chief Architect, Stirling University’s Dementia Services Development Centre, gave a really thought provoking presentation on how to design with dementia in mind – highlighting sufferers’ altered sense of reality – while showing elegant design solutions that could be incorporated into any environment that seeks to be age-friendly. The final presentation came from Gary Young, Director at Farrells, exploring the NHS Healthy Towns Initiative – including some of the initial housing at Bicester – a great talk to end with as it brought together so many key strands.

In the afternoon there were four interactive workshops – ‘The Casino’ a theatre based workshop run by local group Cap-a-Pie, explored how a proposed regeneration project for a run down seaside resort might impact a local community by actually asking participants to step into the shoes of the community themselves – an experimental methodology – it seemed extremely well received by those who took part. Jane Riley, Joanna Saunders and Carol Weir a team based at Leeds Beckett University gave a great workshop on the ‘total systems approach’ to obesity prevention – with participants asked to think about how they could make a real difference in their own work – quite a challenge! Douglas White of the Carnegie Trust did an excellent presentation on the Trust’s ‘Place Standard’ tool – which I’m sure participants will be using in future projects. Finally Pete Wright’s team undertook a kind of speed dating event so that participants could become familiar with various aspects of the MyPlace project based at Newcastle University’s OpenLab.

I observed all for at least a short time and was really impressed as to how participants became quickly absorbed – all the workshops were clearly thoughtfully prepared – the feedback overwhelmingly positive – so my huge thanks to all the organisers.

All round it was a fantastic day and all ran very smoothly – thanks very much to Terry, Ann and Peter the Fuse support team for all their help! And to The Core – it’s an excellent venue.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Tim, I've just come across your post, and I wanted to say how much I enjoyed the day. It was extremely interesting and I met some fabulous people (including yourself). That's me in the corner of the second pic!

    One thing I would like to feed back as something that struck me later on, was that we should maybe look to involve Portfolio Holders from Local Authorities in this sort of event, it would give them a chance to chat more informally on the subjects and build up a better knowledge base?