Joyanta Basak, Green Blogger

At a very early age of life, I left my native home. On a hot sunny day in April 2004, my parents decided to continue my education, keeping me in a hostel of a renowned educational institution in Dhaka. Most probably, that was my first visit to our capital city. We were in a taxi-cab on the way to my hostel. It was a big highway that leads to my institution. As I occupied the window seat as always, I saw an older man walking along the dilapidated footpath with no shade upon him, very tiny walking space, and lack of protection from the vehicles running at high speeds just beside him. I thought to myself the man could have been my father, who was also not in a sound health condition at that time. At that point, I eminently considered that I should stop and help him, but I could not due to the traffic and my tiring situation. Gradually our cab crossed him, and we got to the hostel. After that, this vision stuck to my head, and I kept thinking about that older man. At that moment, he could have died when he was walking down that hot unsafe footpath of that busy highway. His death cause would have been a heat stroke, a heart attack, or a vehicle accident from a medical perspective. However, this was an old anecdote from my early age. Ironically, I was about to forget it as the year passed, but fortunately, when I started my university life as a student of Urban and Regional Planning (URP), I realized the leading killer of that older man would be the built environment.

 The Opportunity of Walking and Cycling Makes a City Healthy 

Our built environment imposes a significant role in impacting our health. In general, built environments are human-made surroundings; they provide the activity settings and provide those physical connections for where we work and live. So, planners should plan accordingly. Practitioners must create and shape the built environment to function for the betterment of the communities. Nevertheless, when I was mumbling the memory of that incident in my school life, I kept thinking about that path where the older man was walking. That footpath could have been too comfortable for the commuter to walk. The enhancement of the footpaths or sidewalks creates spontaneous interest within the passersby. Besides, dedicated cycling routes and public transport provide sustainable and affordable transportation. However, when we talk about walking and cycling, planners must be concerned that with more cyclists and unimaginative come more concern for safety and a need to understand the impact on traffic flow. Professionals must arrange all the relevant infrastructures in the road to make it easy for people to navigate even busy crossroads and change cities for betterment.

A Thing is Valued Where It Belongs The main essence of urban planning was the emergence of the need to protect public health. Ironically, today, the public is negatively impacted by past failure and the malfunction of the present urban planning sectors to smooth public health decently and systematically. According to the World Health Organization (1948), "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." There are several ways that we can see the legacy of how public health has shaped urban planning. As long as there have been urban areas, they have dealt with diseases and hostile environments. However, planners can edify this alien ambiance by synchronizing the available resources and alter our communities in environmentally delicate areas.

 Zoning is a way for urban areas to separate land use or form. For instance, an area could be specified for commercial or residential use or a limitation regarding built housing units. Zoning regulation shapes our communities. Besides, it also shapes the life we live for our survival. Local zoning regulations resolve the dedicated areas of housing, educational institutions, recreational centers, and specific authority. Planning professionals should maintain zoning codes to protect public health. For instance, when one abides by the rules of residential zoning regulations, he will be less likely to become sick for not living near any factories. Also, zoning offers opening neighborhoods to multifamily housing and walking densities.

 Moreover, the ways that we have separated land use having industrial over here and residential over there. That is the foundation of city planning, and it is intended to protect humans from the exposures that come from animal waste, air pollution, noise pollution, contamination of agricultural land, several infectious diseases, and devastation of nearby wetlands. So, once the city has reached a specific size and complexity like human history thousands of years ago, they began to need some form of organization to keep people healthy and safe. Besides, the primal causes of several disparities in both preventable chronic diseases and deaths are shaped by the byzantine and intimate relationships between land use policy and place. To pounder more creatively about our fields of public health and urban planning, and the roles those planners and anyone interested in land use and community development, adequate care must be given with vast priority.

Integrating Green-blue Infrastructures for a Planned and Health City

 Environmentally benign urban planning is one antidote to mental agony. To make synergies with public health and urban planning, the planning professionals should use social determinants of health. Regarding the WHO, social determinants of health are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, age, and the broader set of forces and systems shaping daily life conditions. However, as per the definition of health, as mentioned earlier, we can assume what allows us to be healthy permits us to thrive. So forces and systems that influence health include economic and social policies. They also comprise more traditionally related to urban planning such as land use, housing, water and sanitation, proper sewerage services, access to affordable and efficient public transportation, access to open space for recreation and social gathering, and access to healthy food options. Therefore, the planning professionals need to use the social determinants of health lens. When we prioritize fund and promote short-term design strategies to respond, environmental improvements are intended to support health and predominantly benefit some groups. Moreover, that inequality in the environment both underlies and exacerbates public health disparities like obesity and vulnerability to acute health stressors such as extreme heat events from climate change. 

The twenty-first century's word is ever-changing, and it is going to industrialize day by day. In this circumstance, our natural resources are losing their rights. As a result, our urban environment is transferring into an unhealthy ambiance to live. We face severe heat events, runoff, and negative impacts of climate change in every sphere of our survival. In consequence, this unplanned urban environment is polluting our surroundings and exacerbating our quality of life. Planners should implement urban green infrastructures in the planning strategies and integrate our existing blue networks with green solutions. This blue-green solution will also help in city beautification. It will abate flood risk by capturing rainwater. Furthermore, the shading of trees will avail the sidewalks on sunny days, and some useful infrastructures can company them to rest in tiredness. The implementation of several green infrastructures will help the urban environment to make cold. As a result, people will avert the risk of CFC gases emerging from unsustainable infrastructures like air coolers. As an example, a roof garden can keep the building warm in winter and cool in summer. Thus, planners must give good care of a systematic natural connected way of letting nature and our urban lifestyle by integrating green-blue infrastructures.

Scope for Health to Transform into Wealth

 Planning professionals are among the most dominant parts of a broader ecosystem of efforts to promote health and avert chronic infectious diseases. Upstream social inequalities lead to an inequitable environment that either enables or inhibits behaviors like exercise and nutrition that have been overemphasized in any topic regarding urban planning and public health. We need to consider upstream hazards to public health like violence or the reality in many communities' disinvestment in the built environment, such as a lack of safe parks and bike lanes. It compounds the impact of socio-economic barriers to health, such as a lack of time for recreation. The higher likelihood that residents of disinvested communities would be breathing polluted air in the areas around their homes. The higher likelihood is that those communities' residents will be lowerincome people who do not have time for recreation (Nordenfelt 1987). These people live from hand to mouth. They need healthy, safe ways to get to and from work and to care for their families. Land use decisions impact individual and community decisions. So, land use planning and design fit in the center of enhancing public health. 

Among all the sound health-conscious planning strategies, the planners should focus on the ecofriendly implementation of parks and open space. Improving the essential infrastructures will help the specific community. Our parks and open spaces provide inherent environmental aesthetic and recreational advantages to our societies. This ideology will also accelerate the economic wheels of the country by increasing land value. The planned parks and open spaces can avail us to accumulate health and wellbeing, cleaner air. It can strengthen our community by enhancing productivity and reducing energy consumption. Access to green spaces is crucial for both physical and mental health. Using these places for some fresh air, exercise, or even just for contemplation can provide massive public health. Recreational activities in the green parks improve our general moods, reduce our stresses, offer better mental health, and create social coherence. Besides, the parks and open spaces also conserve wildlife, and these views are eyecatching too. Thus, practitioners must plan for improving all the related infrastructures for parks and open space so that people come together and enjoy a healthy urban environment.

In conclusion, the dynamic changes in urban planning must be the primary driver for improved public health. Planning should be performed by understanding the relationships between planning and public health. It has been many years since I left my school hostel, and today I am prudent enough to scrutinize the scarcity of planning strategies on my first-day experience of the incident of that exhausted older man on the unplanned footpath. Proper planning improves the quality of life by reducing pertinent risks and enhances public health. So, discussing this article, we can wrap up that public health improvement must be prioritized in planning policymaking times.

About the Author: He is a final year student of Urban and Regional Planning Department, Jahangirnagar University, Savar, Dhaka. He has remained a former internee of the Department of Environment (DoE), Bangladesh. He is one of those aspirants who care for our environment.