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Objectively Healthy Cities. Urban design for the 21 st century. George Weeks. 27 th October 2012. 1) The Age of Pestilence and Famine. Represents most of human history. Pre – industrial High birth rates High death rates Basic medicine.

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Objectively Healthy Cities

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Objectively Healthy Cities

Urban design for the 21st century

George Weeks

27th October 2012

1 the age of pestilence and famine
1) The Age of Pestilence and Famine

Represents most of human history

  • Pre – industrial
  • High birth rates
  • High death rates
  • Basic medicine
2 the age of receding pandemics
2) The Age of Receding Pandemics

Late 1700s to early 1900s


Population growth

Rural – to – urban migration

Expanding Urban Populations

  • Liverpool: 88,000 (1801) – 165,000 (1831)
  • Manchester: 90,000 (1801) – 187,000 (1831)
  • Leeds: 53,000 (1801) – 123,000 (1831)


Waste disposal


“Noxious trades”

Incompatible land uses


Rapid urban growth



20th Century Responses - Zoning

Unintended consequences

epidemiological transition

Receding Pandemics

Pestilence & Famine


Pre - industrial

Epidemiological Transition

Degenerative & Man Made Diseases

Post - industrial

then and now
Then and Now



“Despite all the technological advances in modern medicine, regular physical activity is as close as we’ve come to a magic bullet for good health.”

Dr JoAnne E. Manson, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School & Chief, Division of Preventive Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital


Humans are designed for movement and have evolved to have high levels of energy expenditure

P T Katzmarzyk, 2010; Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Health: Paradigm Paralysis or Paradigm Shift?Diabetes;59,11

benefits of physical activity
Benefits of physical activity

Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study

~10,000 men

~3,000 women

8 years

P T Katzmarzyk, Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior, and Health: Paradigm Paralysis or Paradigm Shift?Diabetes; Nov 2010; 59, 11

types of physical activity
Types of Physical Activity


Direct demand


Physical Activity


Indirect demand


types of physical activity1
Types of Physical Activity



Behaviour – based

Individual scale

Physical Activity



Circumstance - based

Environment – scale

People respond to their environment


Would you walk here................................................or here?

Would you cycle here...............................................or here?

People respond to their environment

transportation research board 2005
Transportation Research Board (2005)

“built environments designed to facilitate more active lifestyles and to reduce barriers to physical activity are desirable”.



  • Proximity
  • Density
  • Mix of uses
  • Connectivity

Residents’ assessment of their neighbourhoods’ walkability

Researchers’ own prior assessment of degrees of walkability

Very strong correlation (p<0.0001)

lawrence et al 2005

Measuring Urban Form

(Lawrence et al, 2005)

“An objectively measured walkability index was _significantly related to objectively measured

_moderate intensity physical activity in adults.”

studies of studies
Studies of studies

Glasgow Centre for Population Health (2006)

65 studies

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Japan
  • UK
  • USA

Residents of walkable neighbourhoods always

tend to undertake more physical activity

Hanlon P., D. Walsh and B. Whyte (2006) “Let Glasgow Flourish”; Glasgow Centre for Population Health

Walkability encourages exercise,irrespective of whether or not people have an expressed preference for it.

Van Dyk et al (2009)

importance of utilitarianism
Importance of utilitarianism

“There was…a difference between neighbourhoods regarding walking for errands. This…is consistent with transportation research that finds no differences in walking for exercise but finds significant differences in walking for transport purposes between high- and low walkability neighbourhoods"

Saelenset al, 2003

research implications
Research Implications
  • Neighbourhood walkability = objective measure
  • Walkability correlates with physical activity
  • Physical activity correlates with significantly lower levels of illness and better health
  • Walkable and bikeable mixed use environments contribute significantly to public health

= Objective, public health based justification for walkable, mixed use urban design