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Planning healthy cities: a workshop linking research questions to policy and practice

Posted by on May 26th, 2017 · Cities, Wellbeing

By Alison Taylor, Susan Thompson and Ori Gudes, City Futures Research Centre.

Earlier this month a group of around 30 academics, health planners, and interested stakeholders met to discuss research needs around the topic of planning healthy cities. Representatives from the City Futures Research Centre kicked off the workshop with three short presentations that set the scene for the following spirited discussions.

Professor Susan Thompson, Program Head, City Wellbeing, provided a retrospective view of how far we’ve come in planning our cities to support healthy and active living. And yet, there still remain some significant challenges, particularly in relation to planning legislation.

Dr Ori Gudes demonstrated the potential contribution that GIS and spatial approaches can make to healthy cities. He presented an overview of the City Futures City Analytics capability and series of practical examples showcasing his research. Participants were particularly taken with the work showing the number of fast food outlets in close proximity to schools.

Following this, Dr Alison Taylor described current research investigating the equality of health service distribution across Sydney. Western Sydney was found to be under-serviced for its population size. One group of four local government areas which account for more than one in every five (21%) Sydney residents, only have 12% of the city’s health services. Workshop sessions saw participants deliberating over the insights needed to prepare for future challenges, identifying research gaps and discussing data tools that could assist the achievement of healthy cities.

The session culminated in a panel of experts providing their multi-disciplinary perspectives. Michelle Daley from the Heart Foundation, Stephen Conaty from the South West Health District and Juliet Suich from the Greater Sydney Commission outlined challenges and opportunities to consider.

The workshop was successful in highlighting recent research and showcasing expertise, bringing people from different organisations together to share insights, swap tips and network to undertake further work together. The key workshop finding was that we have some good research to tell us what we need, but workers in the field need practical guides as to how to implement these findings: ‘We know what we need, but how do we do it?’ There were many useful ideas discussed which will motivate our research, and importantly, ensure that it is policy and practice relevant.

Workshop presentations by City Futures staff will be made available on the City Futures website. The workshop was the final event for the ANDS funded Urban Health Data Connectivity Project.

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