Healthy places: How to create a positive legacy cities, regarding health, after covid?

Updated: May 2

Northampton, MA --News Direct-- WSP, released a recent article that illustrates how positive legacy after covid can be achieved for cities. The covid pandemic has impacted physical, mental and emotional health. The results of this world wide health crisis will last for many years to come, not only from the disease but also from all the indirect impacts of: lockdown, disrupter medical treatment, social isolation and economic crisis.

A positive legacy can be achieved by improving resilience from many angles, for example by making individual facilities more adaptable, increasing quantities of data that healthcare produce and the most important, by incentivizing the source of resilience that lies within people: “as caregivers, as problem-solvers and, more fundamentally, in the capacity of individuals and communities to cope when crisis hits”.

The pandemic reinforced this idea that healthcare itself plays a relatively small role in the overall health of the population, in detriment to the conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age (social determinants of health), which are way more influential. “By confining us to our immediate surroundings, the pandemic has made some of the root causes of ill health – as well as the inequities between communities – all the more apparent”.

The pandemic gave us an: “insight into what healthier, happier places might look like, and the potential for a new kind of urban design, refocused around wellbeing. Applying these lessons to our cities would not only aid the long recovery from COVID, but shore up resilience against whatever the coming decades bring”.

Let’s review come of the lessons:

  1. The city as a lab

One of the biggest concerns after the pandemic was accessibility and disparities. The first lesson to learn about what we experienced is that it is very important to address disparities by looking at where health-supporting amenities are located and identifying populations without access to them. “Most municipalities probably know where the gaps are already, but it helps to see it starkly on a map like that. When you overlay health data, you’d almost certainty see that’s where the worst impacts are.”

  1. Changing behaviour

With the pandemic, as indoor activities were restricted, an important part of the population, of all ages, went outdoors to practice their daily life activities: to exercise, to socialise or just to pass the time. Crowded public transport was not a good option, instead rates of walking and cycling soared. “What COVID has taught us is that there is a willingness to change behaviour, but also what we can accomplish when behaviour does change,” says Rasmus Duong-Grunnet, director at Gehl, a Copenhagen-based design and analysis firm. “At a very fundamental level, we should look at how we can use this momentum.” Copenhagen’s world-beating levels of cycling are just a behaviour that has developed over time, he points out.

  1. Creating health through mobility

Mobility is one key aspect for change. Active travel, by walking and cycling, is a bullet for health creation. Taking space from cars is still controversial and meets with fierce opposition from local traders. But traditional schemes must change, because walking and cycling “makes people more active but it can also have a whole heap of mindset benefits as part of the working day and by getting people outside,” says Katherine Bright, director of transportation planning at WSP in the UK. “It helps to improve air quality and helps to take cars and congestion out of the city, which makes the streets a much nicer place and more enticing.”

At MKThink we are constantly thinking and experimenting with how space impacts us. We test and measure, looking for traditional and non-traditional approaches to ensure healthy environments. We love new challenges, so let us know what you're working on. At the very least we can give you a few new ideas to think about!

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