Conference paper

Building Active and Healthy Communities: An Analysis of Council Initiatives

02 Dec 2011

Historically, Town Planning has been concerned with protecting public health and safety. Indeed, earliest town planning legislation in the UK grew out of public health legislation. Over time planning broadened its focus and the role of planners by adding new areas within its scope of concerns. Meanwhile, public health organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) expanded their focus from extension of health services into the rural areas to also include urban areas. This has resulted in the Healthy Cities Movement in the 1990s. More recently in Australian cities, as in many other cities across the world, there has been growing concern about the health and wellbeing of people with increasing incidence of obesity, diabetics and heart diseases reported in the media. The growing burden of such preventable diseases related to lifestyle risk factors has prompted an increased concern for promoting healthy living. This has resulted in a reconfirmation of the connection between lifestyles and the built environment and natural settings in which we live. This has, consequently, led to a renewed focus on the links between town planning and public health. As a result, there have been initiatives by different levels of government, the Heart Foundation, and professional organisations to provide guidance for promoting physical activities and healthy eating (Queensland Government and Heart Foundation, 2010; Victoria Department of Health, undated; NSW Department of Health 2009; PIA 2009; Pretorius, 2008). In Australian cities, many councils have embarked on programs to create supportive environments for physical activities and healthy living. These focus on support for diverse sports and recreational activities to promote a ‘healthy life-style’ for the citizens along with the provision of infrastructure for ‘active transport’. Local councils play the major role in regulating and controlling development to shape the urban environmental settings. The heightened concerns with promoting healthy lifestyles thus create added expectations from local councils to integrate lifestyle concerns into its functions. In this context, what are the local councils currently doing to address this growing concern about promoting healthy and active lifestyle? What kind of initiatives have they put in place and how effective are they? These are the questions the paper proposes to address. The major objective of the paper is to examine the role of local government in promoting active and healthy living in Queensland. Using Gold Coast as a case study area, it sets out to assess how local councils can act as an enabler to promote active living. The paper reviews significant council initiatives such as the Gold Coast Physical Activity Alliance (GCPA Alliance), Gold Coast Physical Activity Plan (GCPAP), Council’s Active and Healthy Program and Active Transport. The paper also seeks to identify the challenges and issues these initiatives present and draw lessons for other local councils in Australia.
The State of Australian Cities (SOAC) national conferences have been held biennially since 2003 to support interdisciplinary policy-related urban research.This paper was presented at SOAC 5held in Melbourne from 29 November – 2 December 2011.SOAC 5 was hosted by the University of Melbourne, RMIT University, Monash University, Swinburne University of Technology and Latrobe University as well as the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute and the Grattan Institute, the Victorian State Government and the City of Melbourne.Three plenary panels brought researchers from across the country to address ‘big issues’: place-based disadvantage, the design and form of Australian cities, and metropolitan governance. Over 175 papers, in 46 themed sessions, cover topics ranging from planning and governance for environmental sustainability, to housing affordability and adequacy in the context of an aging population. Healthy communities, better public transport, high quality open space, participatory planning, and issues affecting the peri-urban fringe are also strong sub-themes within this conference.All published papers have been subject to a peer reviewing process.

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