Overcoming Systemic Barriers Preventing Healthy Urban Development in the UK: Main Findings from Interviewing Senior Decision-Makers During a 3-Year Planetary Health Pilot

Daniel Black, Paul Pilkington, Ben Williams, Janet Ige, Emily Prestwood, Alistair Hunt, Eleanor Eaton, Gabriel Scally

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This paper sets out the main findings from two rounds of interviews with senior representatives from the UK's urban development industry: the third and final phase of a 3-year pilot, Moving Health Upstream in Urban Development' (UPSTREAM). The project had two primary aims: firstly, to attempt to value economically the health cost-benefits associated with the quality of urban environments and, secondly, to interview those in control of urban development in the UK in order to reveal the potential barriers to, and opportunities for, the creation of healthy urban environments, including their views on the use of economic valuation of (planetary) health outcomes. Much is known about the 'downstream' impact of urban environments on human and planetary health and about how to design and plan healthy towns and cities ('midstream'), but we understand relatively little about how health can be factored in at key governance tipping points further 'upstream', particularly within dominant private sector areas of control (e.g. land, finance, delivery) at sub-national level. Our findings suggest that both public and private sector appeared well aware of the major health challenges posed by poor-quality urban environments. Yet they also recognized that health is not factored adequately into the urban planning process, and there was considerable support for greater use of non-market economic valuation to help improve decision-making. There was no silver bullet however: 110 barriers and 76 opportunities were identified across a highly complex range of systems, actors and processes, including many possible points of targeted intervention for economic valuation. Eight main themes were identified as key areas for discussion and future focus. This findings paper is the second of two on this phase of the project: the first sets out the rationale, approach and methodological lessons learned.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2021

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