NHS England is helping to design 10 ‘healthy new towns’ across the country alongside Public Health England, in the hope of developing new solutions to key healthcare challenges such as obesity and dementia.
Under the plans, more than 76,000 new homes with potential capacity for around 170,000 residents will be built - with funding from local councils and the private sector - in environments specifically set up to address 21st century health needs.
NHS England said it will bring together renowned clinicians, designers and technology experts to reimagine the delivery of healthcare in residential areas, “to showcase what’s possible by joining up design of the built environment with modern health and care services, and to deploy new models of technology-enabled primary care”.
Ideas to be tested include fast food-free zones near schools, safe and appealing green spaces, dementia-friendly streets and digital access to GP services, though developments are to reflect the needs of their local populations.
“The much-needed push to kick start affordable housing across England creates a golden opportunity for the NHS to help promote health and keep people independent,” noted NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens. “As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we’ll kick ourselves if in ten years time we look back having missed the opportunity to ‘design out’ the obesogenic environment, and ‘design in’ health and wellbeing”.
After a rigorous selection process, the 10 sites for Healthy Towns have now been named: Whitehill and Bordon, Hampshire – 3,350 new homes on a former army barracks; Cranbrook, Devon – 8,000 new residential units; Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites; Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site; Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units; Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units; Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses; Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land; Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years; and Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units.
The move comes as the number of working days lost in Britain due to ill health reaches 130 million, while physical inactivity is a direct factor in one in six deaths and has an overall economic impact of £7.4 billion.