The NHS has taken its campaign to improve the health of the nation one step further with the announcement of its 'healthy towns' initiative earlier this week.
The intention is to specifically design new towns and settlements in a way that promotes healthy living amongst the residents. Design ideas that are currently being discussed include:
- Fast food-free zones near schools
- Designing safe and appealing green spaces
- Building dementia-friendly streets
- Ensuring people can access new GP services from home using digital technology
The first ten 'healthy town' developments have already been chosen and the winning sites are:
- Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks. A new care campus will co-locate ‘care-ready homes’ specially designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.
- Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units. Data suggests that Cranbrook has three times the national average of 0-4 year olds and will look at how prevention and healthy lifestyles can be taught in schools from a young age.
- Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone. Darlington is developing a ‘virtual care home’ offer where a group of homes with shared facilities are configured to link directly into a digital care hub, avoiding institutionalisation in nursing homes.
- Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site.
- Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units.
- Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units.
- Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 1300 new homes planned.
- Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land.
- Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years.
- Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.
It will be worth keeping a close eye on how these sites progress; as if the initiative is successful some of the ideas being tested may well become best practice in the future.
“The much-needed push to kick start affordable housing across England creates a golden opportunity for the NHS to help promote health and keep people independent. As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we’ll kick ourselves if in ten years time we look back having missed the opportunity to ‘design out’ the obesogenic environment, and ‘design in’ health and wellbeing. “We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school – rather than just exercising their fingers on video games. We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible. And we want new ways of providing new types of digitally-enabled local health services that share physical infrastructure and staff with schools and community groups.”