“Cities, Health and Well-Being”
Conference in Hong Kong, November 16–17, 2011
Cities are critical sites for both enquiry and action in relation to health and well-being. With up to 70 per cent of the world’s population concentrated in urban areas by 2050, global well-being will increasingly be determined by the health of urban dwellers.
To date, urbanisation has been associated with improvements in income levels and health outcomes. At the same time, the pressures of urban growth have contributed to the emergence of stark social and health inequalities in cities of the developed and developing world.
Reflecting the Urban Age’s longstanding interests in the links between the physical and social environment in cities, the 2011 conference in Hong Kong provided an opportunity to explore the relationships between the built environment and urban health at a regional and global level. Its core objective was to identify and showcase evidence of projects and initiatives that have improved the well-being of urban dwellers as a result of innovative planning and design practices. The Hong Kong conference also included a particular focus on the health and well-being implications of urban density and its planning and design. This is important at a time when the economic and environmental benefits of urban density provide a strong momentum for related urban policy and practice, while important social issues such as health and well-being are given little attention.
York Y. N. Chow, Secretary for Food and Health, Hong Kong Government
The conference combined a focus on Hong Kong with comparative analysis and policy learning from other cities including Cape Town, Karachi, London, Maputo and Vancouver. Hong Kong itself provided a stimulating backdrop to the conference given its exceptional levels of urban density (amongst the highest in the world), highly efficient public transport and health systems, long life expectancy of its residents and radical approach to land control and planning. Nonetheless, significant health inequalities do exist in Hong Kong, as in other global cities, including high suicide rates amongst elderly people living in isolation in new towns, drug abuse amongst deprived urban youth, and social deprivation within recently-arrived migrant communities. The combination of Hong Kong’s efficiency and the wider regional concerns affecting quality of urban life provide a relevant context for an informed debate on the relationships between the built environment and health and well-being in cities.
Tseung Kwan O located in Hong Kong's South East New Territories
The Urban Age conference in Hong Kong was designed to provide an interdisciplinary reflection that kick-starts a series of research projects and connections between national and metropolitan governments, public agencies and the key actors engaged in city-making.Key sessions included:
- Health in cities: what are the emerging challenges and opportunities for health in cities around the world?
- Measuring quality of life: how can we measure the subjective qualities of cities, and what does it mean for urban policy and practice if we do?
- Space and design: how important is the built environment in shaping the health performance of cities?
- Mapping inequalities: what can we learn from a spatial analysis of health and well-being outcomes in cities?
- Planning for city change: what is the role of city governments in improving quality of life?
- Urban density and health: can we develop an understanding of the social impacts of density?
- Designing for density: how are architects dealing with the challenges of designing livable urban density?