Human activities can cause harm to our planet as well as our own health, the consequences of which are intensifying. Making the places we live in healthier and more environmentally sustainable are amongst the most urgent challenges we face. The UK government has set an ambitious target of reducing emissions to net zero by 2050. Its Levelling Up agenda strives for everyone to live longer and healthier lives. Taken together, these agendas present the potential for double-win strategies and policies that address both our health and the environment.
The Healthy Places, Healthy Planet programme will investigate how to make the places we live in healthier and better for the environment. The programme aims to step out of the traditional boundaries of public health research and adopt a cross-disciplinary approach to generate robust evidence that supports policy, practice and community activities to improve and bring greater equity to population health and environmental sustainability.
Often the barriers that prevent us from living healthy and environmentally sustainable lives are greatest for disadvantaged people and places. This programme will assess these barriers and work towards health and environmental equity that helps to overcome inequalities.
This programme builds on SPHR’s Places and Communities programme and is being expanded to consider wider issues of planetary health. Healthy Places, Healthy Planet is in the early stages of development with projects still being scoped and developed. Areas of research will likely include:
Climate and sustainability – this theme will explore adaptations to emerging risks such as flooding and extreme heat and improving resilience to these challenges, particularly for at-risk populations.
Air pollution – the largest environmental risk to public health in the UK is poor air quality. This theme will evaluate the influence of place-based urban factors and the impact of interventions such as low emission zones, housing density and tree canopy cover.
Transport – transport systems directly impact upon issues of climate change, sustainability, environmental health, and air pollution. This theme will work with local authorities to assess sustainable travel in line with the national build back greener strategies as well as investigating the effectiveness of policies to reduce traffic around schools.
Commercial determinants of health – there is a growing interest in local strategies for controlling advertising and sponsorship of harmful commodities, such as Transport for London restricting the advertisement of high fat sugar and salt foods. This theme will explore harmful commodity marketing outdoors, at sporting events and through food delivery apps, as well as the way these intersect with the environment such as in relation to plastic pollution and litter.
Details of confirmed projects will be added here as the programme develops.