Liveable cities research has real impact on health and equity

The Prevention Centre’s project which measured the liveability of Australian cities, has achieved a major coup for its impact with two of its indicators taken up by the federal government.

The multi-disciplinary research team working on Liveable cities: benchmarking, monitoring, modelling and valuing the healthy liveable city has had key findings adopted by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Cities and Regional Development as part of its National Cities Performance Framework.

“We’re delighted to see the impact of our work with the Prevention Centre by a federal government department so integral to the research we do. The first indicator recommends guidelines for ideal access to public transport offering a service every 30 minutes within 400 metres of a dwelling,” said Professor Billie Giles-Corti, project lead from RMIT.

Professor Billie Giles-Corti
Professor Billie Giles-Corti

“The second indicator looks at one of the key factors constituting a liveable city – access to parks and open spaces with the ideal access of a 1.5-hectare park within 400 metres of a dwelling,” said Professor Giles-Corti.

The project’s phase one research found that while there were some policies designed to create healthy liveable cities included in state legislation, this may not necessarily translate to adequate implementation. As rates of lifestyle-related chronic disease increase, it is more important than ever that our cities make it easier for people to live healthier lives.

Project co-lead Dr Lucy Gunn from RMIT is an econometrician who has been working in the field of public health since 2013. She has witnessed the power that research has in providing an evidence base on which planning decisions are made and the subsequent impact on our communities, and health.

Dr Lucy Gunn

“A big focus of the funding for phase two of our project is on agent-based simulation models. An agent can be anything from a human to an animal or a component, such as a car or infrastructure.

“This means that we can input variables into the model to determine how liveable a city or community can be – or not – depending on the different agents introduced. For example, in the model, we can add a cycleway and then determine how it might improve or impede traffic-flow during peak hour,” said Dr Gunn

This information is then used to advise local governments on the viability of changes to infrastructure in getting closer to the 30-minute city.

“We are now working on modelling access to employment within 30 minutes of dwelling and matching skilled jobs by area in this project, which is an exciting development for our work with the state and federal government,” said Dr Gunn.

As well as reducing the cost of the long-term health burden, liveable cities contribute significantly to social equity and community stability. The research has the potential to make real impact on the way our cities work and to bring about sustainable changes in health.

Recently, the Queensland Health’s Preventive Health Branch announced that is has been asked to lead a cross-government approach to measuring and reporting the health of place, recognising the work Professor Giles-Corti and her team has undertaken in providing the evidence that both the form and the function of places impacts health.

“Before this research, we had no way of knowing what makes Australian cities liveable or which urban design features improve people’s health. This knowledge is important to help Australia design urban planning policies that support health and wellbeing.

“The impact of our work is now making a real contribution to the Australian public health landscape, potentially reducing the burden of disease. We are confident that we will have similar impactful outcomes with the project’s final findings,” said Professor Billie Giles-Corti.

 

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Achievements:

Professor Giles-Corti was recently listed in The Australian’s annual Research magazine on its Lifetime Achievement Leaderboard as one of Australia’s top 40 researchers and one of only five for social sciences.