Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2020

HCD 2020: Opening plenary: Recovery, renewal and renaissance

By SALUS User Experience Team 04 Feb 2021 0

The opening plenary of Healthy City Design 2020 featured four illustrious speakers with expertise in planetary health, health and social inequalities, sustainable health systems, and home and town planning.


Professor Tony Capon, from the Sustainable Development Institute at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, talked about the need to bring a ‘planetary consciousness’ to health and city design research, training, policy and practice – including the need for an eco-social approach that recognises the ecological, economic and social determinants of health; intergenerational health equity that considers the impact of decisions on future generations; getting better at valuing Indigenous and local knowledge; and systems thinking.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of the UCL Institute of Health Equity, followed Prof Capon by stressing the need not only to “build back better” but to “build back fairer”. He described how the past ten years had amounted to “a lost decade” in regard to tackling health inequalities in England – with evidence showing that the country saw the slowest improvement in health between 2010 and 2020, and the worst record of excess deaths in 2020 among rich nations.

The fairness angle was taken up by Dr David Pencheon, honorary professor of health and sustainable development at the University of Exeter, who underlined that the climate crisis should be framed as a social justice issue. But he also highlighted signs of progress, with health systems starting to make a greater contribution to a safe, sustainable, resilient and fair future, as well as recognising their vital community role as anchor organisations. 

And an acknowledgement of the links between housing and health, and the need to unite planning and public health professionals, was expressed by Fiona Howie, chief executive of the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA). She described how deregulation of the planning system in England has chipped away at planning controls over the last decade, and much damage was being done through the granting of permitted development rights, which enable offices and light industrial buildings to be turned into homes.

This session was kindly supported by Ryder Architecture.