Wednesday, June 1, 2022
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Healthy urban development

Elizabeth Harris, Associate Professor from the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity at UNSW, started the night’s proceedings with a presentation on the challenges of incorporating health into urban developments.

It was clear that health meant more than just diet and exercise. Ms Harris highlighted the need to consider age, gender, genetic composition, education and environment. As such, poor health has been statistically linked to disadvantage.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA), the Redfern-Waterloo area is markedly more disadvantaged than surrounding suburbs.

The discussion quickly turned to the issues and risks posed by the current wave of redevelopment in the area.

In what Ms Harris called “child-blind planning”, a pattern has emerged of developing high-rise apartments that do not cater for or attract families to move into the area. “Children,” she stated, “are the glue of communities.” Ms Harris instead advocated for the construction of townhouses and two- to three-bedroom apartments.

Roundtable participants were vocal in their support for open space in urban developments. There was growing concern that UrbanGrowth’s shrinking targets for open space will drastically affect the future health of the community.

Continued access to equal services was discussed as a possible solution for ensuring a sustained and healthy social mix. Participants noted that planners and developers often use “social mix” as a front for displacement and gentrification.

Ms Harris stressed the need for advocacy, to turn evidence from health impact assessments into policy. There is a need to “push the system to adapt in a way which suits the people, not the profiteers”, she said. Though this is a difficult task, Ms Harris acknowledged, “the opportunity is in the detail”.

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