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Planning for healthy people/healthy places: lessons from mid-twentieth century global discourse

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This paper aims to enrich the discourse about the reintegration of urban planning and public health. The community of planning practitioners and academics in the USA is a relative latecomer to the reintegration discussion, and is talking about it in a more constrained fashion than are counterparts in Canada and Europe - focusing on a narrowly framed research agenda about how characteristics of the built environment adversely impact human health, such as how sprawl and urban design influence physical activity and obesity. Moreover, those discussing the recently re-emerged connections, while noting the joint origins of the two fields in the late nineteenth century, miss the significance of a set of discourses involving planners, architects, urban designers and health specialists that occurred during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, which influenced the evolution of the reintegration efforts then underway, under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) generally and the World Health Organization in particular. We call particular attention to mid-twentieth century discussions, publications and programmes - notably the Harvard Urban Design Conferences, the Delos Symposia orchestrated by the Greek planner Constantinos Doxiadis and disseminated in the journal Ekistics, and efforts by the Ford Foundation, UN, and US government agencies - to deal with poverty, urban development and health. We illuminate their importance in shaping a holistic, ecological view of healthy urban planning in a global context.

Keywords: Ekistics; healthy cities; planning and health

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, Portland State University, Portland, USA

Publication date: 2009-04-01

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