The impact of urban design on physical and mental health building capacity for research across the life course [ 2007 - 2012 ]

Also known as: Studies of how neighbourhood design affects health from childhood through to old age

Research Grant

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Researchers: Dr Kimberly Van Niel Prof Matthew Knuiman Prof Robert Donovan Prof Stephen Zubrick (Participant) Prof Billie Giles-Corti (Principal investigator)
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Brief description In the last decade there has been growing recognition that the urban environment influences health. The design of neighborhoods and public open space design as well as transport planning is associated with levels of walking, cycling and use of public transport, as well as the sense of community, positive mental health, depression and asthma. Low-density, automobile dependent suburbs discourage the use of non-motorized forms of transport and public transport use, thereby reducing physical activity and opportunities for casual contacts between neighbors. Nevertheless, how to optimize urban environment to meet the needs of different population groups (eg. Children and young people, older adults, as well as the general public) has been largely unexplored. While more walkable neighborhoods (i.e., those characterized by higher density, mixed use planning and enhanced connectivity) may encourage able-bodied adults to do more working, the impact on children, young people and older adults is unknown. For example, adults generally report there is more traffic in more walkable areas. Exposure to traffic decreases the likelihood of children walking. In addition, higher levels of traffic increase traffic pollution, thereby increasing the likelihood of asthma. Moreover, while some research suggests that social capital or sense of community is higher in more walkable neighborhoods; other research suggests that living on a busy road decreases one�s social networks. Thus, it is likely that there is an optimum level of walkability that encourages sense of community. The proposed research will build upon and strengthen and extensive program of research examining the impact of the urban environment on adults, by adding programs of work with children and older adults. It will build our group�s capacity for research in this area, by building expertise within the whole team for appropriate qualitative, statistical and geo-spatial methods which will assist our team to work in this complex, multi-disciplinary area. With input from consumers, practitioners and policy-makers a major focus of this applied research program will be designing research that can be translated into policy and practice with the aim of creating urban environments that promote good health.

Funding Amount $AUD 2,194,515.72

Funding Scheme Capacity

Notes Population Health Capacity Building Grant

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