Why do so many people still not bike to work, jog in the evening or let their children play outside? Is it our culture, laziness or the environment around us that prevents us from leading physically active lives in a safe and pleasurable way?
The truth is, the way a neighbourhood is built, the roads are planned and the parks are lit in the evening, has a significant impact on the way people live, commute and exercise. The safer and more accessible the environment, the more people choose to exercise. Many cities understand this linkage and invest in healthy solutions in urban planning. This has been particularly visible in the European WHO Healthy Cities for years now and one good example is the Finnish city of Turku. In an article, published in the journal Public Health Forum, the author Karolina Mackiewicz presents examples from the European WHO Healthy Cities, highlighting in particular the town Turku in Finland and its innovative and healthy solutions in urban planning.
For Turku, healthy urban planning is not only a responsibility but also a source of inspiration and health benefits. Turku shows that positive changes in the living environment do not have to cost much and can boost the town’s inhabitants’ overall happiness. Five years ago the Central Park of Culture and Exercise was established in Turku which covers the urban spaces and the area around the Aura River. The park became popular very quickly and has become one of the favourite spots for local inhabitants and tourists. The park combines art with exercise and fun and visitors can choose from a variety of cultural exercise tours and routes through the park such as the Romantic Turku or ArchitecTOUR routes.
Such progress in healthy urban planning is only possible, however, if the city involves its residents in the planning process. In Turku, citizens are part of the decision making process together with city representatives and politicians. This model of cooperation has been tested on several occasions but it is best showcased by the example of the planning of Skanssi, a new residential area that should be both smart and sustainable. To make this happen, several seminars and workshops for different groups have been organized where ideas on high-quality living and well-being for the future can be brainstormed and further developed.
There are more inspirational examples of healthy urban planning at the European WHO Healthy Cities Network. If you want to learn more, please contact the WHO Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Health in the Baltic Region at www.marebalticum.org.
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