In this blog entry I want to talk about Healthy Living. I use the term healthy living as I am talking about health in terms of a whole life view. This means talking about health in terms of prevention; the type of things that we can do on a daily basis and local government could possibly do, to assist us live healthier lives. This is different from the health care system, which we tend to engage with only when absolutley necessary.
As Healthy Living is our first topic of consultation, it would be useful to place it in the context of the other important indicators of sustainable development that are contained within Dublin’s Sustainability Indicators Framework (2011). The diagram shows how inter-related Healthy Living is with these other aspects of sustainable development. This indicates how complex and broad ranging sustainable development is, linking to all areas of public life.
A Broad Range of Healthy Living Issues
Do you think it is possible to make changes so that Dublin will be viewed as a health promoting city? If so, can this be achieved with small changes or do we have to adopt a long term inter-generational committment to improving health? Even if we make these changes can we expect to have a greater number of our citizens living healthy for longer?
I believe the answer is yes, but that it will take a long term committment from all of the stakeholders who contribute to the operation, functioning and vibrancy of life in Dublin; including the citizens of Dublin.
There are already examples of policy initiatives than can impact on health. The bike rental scheme has proved a great success but are there other areas of transport policy that could make further contributions. Some argue that increasing pedestrianisation coupled with enhanced public transport would be advantageous for the city and would also improve health. Others feel this will decrease accessibility in the city and a tax on cars might be a better option.
These issues are obviously realted to land-use planning. Do we need to plan our commercial and residential areas to provide adequate local facilities and encourage people to walk? How can we best optimise the use of facilities to promote a healthy lifestyle?
Well planned areas can also help increase the accessibility to proper facilities. Should we plan to ensure that there is an equal spread of health facilities (e.g. GP practices) in all parts of the city? The city has great facilities, for example the sports facilities in schools. However, most schools close at 4pm and the local community may find it difficult to access them in the evening.
Who do we need to make these decisions and initiate change? Would it be better if the current system of local government were replaced with larger authorities and elected managers? Would they be in a better position to change the governance structures in the city? Also, could they help address social support structures, like fuel poverty that is known to negatively impact on health? Or is it down to the citizens to identify areas for change and initiate small local programmes to help themselves?
Maybe the citizens of Dublin are its greatest asset. What better way to promote health than for the citizens to be the drivers. How could we provide the education for the citizens of Dublin to become empowered with the knowledge to drive health promotion?
These comments are designed to generate a discussion and debate. There are unquestionably a wide range of opinions and hopefully this forum will offer people an opportunity to make a positive contribution.
Learn more about Sustainable Development and Dublin: Introducing Sustainable Development and Dublin, by Dick Gleeson, City Planner
Learn more about the current topic of consultation: Welcome to D5P – Topic 1: Healthy Living