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Room for improvement: cities, housing and health

Exploring the impact of cities and housing on health and wellbeing
Improving our cities and housing conditions can increase our quality of life, prevent disease, and help mitigate climate change. What does this look like in practice, and how might we get to this place? Let's get (urban) planning.

When housing is structurally deficient, it exposes people to risk of injury and illness. Poor access to walking and recreation opportunities, urban heat islands and long journeys to work can all impact on our health and wellbeing.

How can better designed, constructed and maintained housing address these issues, and more importantly, in a way that's sustainable and equitable? 

Hear from a range of perspectives. David Jacobs, a member of the World Health Organisation working group on Health and Housing, summarises key insights from Housing and Health guidelines (WHO, 2018), which provides strong evidence and recommendations to reduce the health burden of housing.

Environmental health researcher Luke Knibbs outlines the effects of housing conditions on childhood illness while Jennifer Kent, a research fellow in urban planning, explores the aspects of city design that have negative impacts on public health and what we can do to improve. 

This event was part of The Festival of Urbanism (2-12 September), presented by Henry Halloran Trust with the support of the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning; Monash Urban Planning and Design; Charles Perkins Centre; and Planning Institute of Australia.

The speakers

David is the Chief Scientist at the National Center for Healthy Housing. He also serves as Director of the U.S. Collaborating Center for Research and Training on Housing Related Disease and Injury for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO WHO), an adjunct associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, and as a faculty associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. He is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on childhood lead poisoning prevention and was principal author of both the President’s Task Force Report on the subject in 2000 and the Healthy Homes Report to Congress in 1999. 

His current work includes research on asthma, international healthy housing guidelines, lead poisoning prevention, and green sustainable building design. David is a Certified Industrial Hygienist® and holds degrees in political science, environmental health, technology, and science policy and a doctorate in environmental engineering.

Luke conducts research and teaching on the health effects of environmental risk factors, with a specific focus on air pollution and bioaerosols (airborne particles of biological origin).

Luke is an Associate Professor of Environmental Health and joined the School of Public Health in 2012. Prior to that, he completed his PhD on ultrafine particle exposure assessment in 2009, followed by 3 years' postdoctoral training at the International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health. He has a special interest in understanding the burden of disease due to anthropogenic air pollution and transmission of respiratory pathogens via bioaerosols.

Jennifer is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Sydney. Prior to joining the University of Sydney, Jennifer was a Lecturer at Macquarie University and Research Associate at the Healthy Built Environments Program at the University of NSW. She has also worked as a town planner in NSW in both local government and as a consultant.

Event image: Tom Rumble on Unsplash

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