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Health and Wellbeing Innovation Commission Inquiry: Built Environment

Author: Sally Bowell

ILC-UK’S Commission Inquiry on Health and Wellbeing Innovation, supported by Audley Group and EY, seeks to review the current evidence base of innovation in health and wellbeing, generate new research and thought leadership, critically explore the opportunities and barriers and set out a blueprint for future work in this area. The Commission Inquiry has been built around four evidence sessions, designed to reflect the range of settings for health and wellbeing innovation: retirement communities and care homes, the built environment, physical and mental health, and social connections (including social isolation and loneliness).

Our second Commission Inquiry session explored the current and future potential for innovation in the built environment. We believe that embracing and fostering innovation in health and wellbeing is imperative; the promotion of good health and wellbeing is not just clinical, but should also be embedded holistically within communities as part of everyday life.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that “the main action on social determinant of health… comes from outside the health sector”. The definition of health has been recognised over recent years to mean not just the absence of disease, but the interrelationship between medical wellbeing, social wellbeing and psychological wellbeing, of which the built environment is a key element. Having a home that is accessible if you have physical impairments, a local environment that can encourage physical activity and a transport system that allows you to access services and maintain social connections are all important to a person’s health and wellbeing.

Throughout the session, three primary questions formed the basis of the line of inquiry:

  • What does ‘good’ innovation look like in the built environment, where do we find it, and how is it characterised?
  • How do we stimulate innovation in health and wellbeing within these sectors where there are limited or early stages of innovation?
  • What resources underpin the development and diffusion of innovation, considering individual, state and industry responsibility?

In this short report, evidence is drawn primarily from the Commission Inquiry session and from a review of the relevant literature. Endnotes are enclosed for specific citations.