A new book has been released on a study that uncovers the link between land-use planning and human health.

University of Sydney Robinson Fellow at the School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Dr. Jennifer Kent has been researching the ways in which urban structures and governance influence human health.

According to Kent, many of the chronic and costly diseases facing Australia are related to the way we live in cities. The speed of modern life clashes with increasing inequity to ensure the promotion of good health.

Urban planning is increasingly recognised as an effective mechanism to shape and manage built environments so they encourage and support physical activity, social connection and access to healthy food.

Kent’s research delves into the solutions to this complex issue and the challenges faced to provide a clear and theoretically sound framework to inform planning in the future.

The book, Planning Australia’s Healthy Built Environments, is the result of her research into this area and  is the first text to look at the way Australian urban planning influences human health, covering topics as diverse as access to healthy food, opportunities for physical activity, social interactions and mental health, as well as equity, time use and diversity in our cities.

While Australian governments and associated stakeholders regularly acknowledge the potential for built environments to promote health, changing political priorities, complex regulatory systems and difficulties associated with working across disciplines continue to threaten realisation of this potential. Kent’s research combines quantitative and qualitative data with understandings from policy science to trace the practical, cultural and political barriers to healthy cities.

Key issues examined to date include the links between health and higher density living, the interpretation of health evidence into urban planning policy, the health impacts of extended commute times, and cultural and structural barriers to sustainable transport use.