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Health and greening the city; new visions for health promoters
  1. J McKenna
  1. Department of Exercise and Health Sciences, Centre for Sport, Exercise and Health, University of Bristol, Tyndall Avenue, Bristol BS8 1TP, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr J McKenna;
 jim.mckenna{at}bristol.ac.uk

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New visions for health promoters

The paper from Takano et al,1 outlines how the presence of a “green and pleasant land” has meaning even within an urban sprawl. Here, just perceiving that your neighbourhood is both green and pleasant was associated with increased longevity in older people. This is an important finding for at least two reasons. Firstly, it supports the qualitative sense that attractive spaces (however “attractiveness” is determined) and community amenities are just “good for us”, without knowing why. The second reason is that it adds to the literature describing which environmental elements influence human life. This is expressed in academic domains variously labelled as spatial geography, urban planning, ecological health promotion, and lifecourse (and potentially behavioural) epidemiology.

Vitally, the study puts flesh on the bones of the old adage, “Build it and they will come”. Certainly the study places a value and a direction on the first part of the injunction—build green urban spaces and wide paths for walking. This has direct relevance to health indices for older adults, and other researchers must establish the value of these, and other, urban features in different populations and cultures. Health promoters should take note; the study suggests that you can widen your remit to form alliances with urban planners to influence the conceptualisation and delivery of urban development.

However, Tanaka et al, haven’t found evidence that once it is built, that they will come. That responsibility will fall to health promoters who promote the features of the urban environment to enhance individual health. There are many international groups, but in the UK this study speaks to the likes of Kerr et al,2 and Mutrie et al,3 who have all been concerned to promote the use of urban facilities to increase levels of daily physical activity. Others, like SUSTRANS, have been concerned to create improved urban access by building much needed bridges, walkways, or cycle paths. For us advocates of the “good thing”, we wish you well and hope that what you develop meets our own versions of what is green, wide, and walkable.

New visions for health promoters

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