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Putting Health into Place

Introducing NHS England’s Healthy New Towns programme

Places where people live have a significant impact on their mental and physical health but that impact is too often negative. Many high streets are dominated by fast-food takeaways. Driving is often the only – and most convenient – way to get around.

Poorly maintained parks and green spaces do little to invite walking or play. In numerous ways, neighbourhoods, towns and cities restrict people’s choices and chances to lead healthier, more active lives.

People are living longer but are spending more of these additional years in poor health. Six million people over the age of 60 live with two or more long-term conditions, such as type 2 diabetes or depression. Many of these conditions are not inevitable, but are associated with the way people live.

UK schoolchildren are now among the least active in the world, and as a nation, we are among the most overweight in western Europe. Obesity, inactivity and social isolation are all strongly associated with the development of long-term conditions.

It is essential to help prevent ill health by planning, designing and developing higher quality places. There is growing evidence of how this can be done. For example, providing safe routes for walking to school or cycling to work helps promote physical activity, and attractive green spaces or parks for play and recreation can foster learning and wellbeing.