The origins of planning, in particular in the UK, can be closely traced to increasing public health concerns. The growing industrialization of nineteenth century cities created specific health impacts, from the air pollution generated by factories to the overcrowded housing for workers. Early urban planning models were therefore partly driven by a desire to address the worsening state of public health. Most notably, Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement referred to a utopian town where the air and water were pure and smoke and slums had been eliminated. Even the urban renewal of the 1960’s was loosely justified as a tool to eliminate overcrowding and the associated negative health conditions. Yet reading most current city plans it would be easy to forget the close connections between health and the built environment. Health issues may crop up in relation to environmental impacts, but very rarely is public health fully considered as a topic to which planning can effectively contribute.
It was therefore refreshing to attend the Walk21 conference held in Vancouver in early October to reconnect the health and planning professions.