Healthy cities and healthy urban design
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As an occupational therapist, I have always found the interaction between humans, their environment and their activities interesting, and how the environment can influence what we do and our occupational patterns is something that fascinates me. As my interest for urban health and healthy cities has grown during this master program, I have chosen to use the experience and knowledge I have from my field of expertise and put it in the context of healthy urban planning. This master’s thesis therefore consists of two articles focusing on urban health and healthy urban planning. The first article is a review of how the environment can influence health and well-being of urban dwellers. The second article is based on the results from the first article, and is a qualitative study focusing on what creates health in the urban environment, and how this is related to the actual urban design. Article Ι: Today a great amount of the world population lives in urban areas. As health essentially is created outside the health sector, the urban environment becomes an important determinant of health. Thus, it becomes important not only to understand how to develop healthy urban environments, but also to understand what this entails. This review article therefore aims to explore how the built environment can influence the health and well-being of urban dwellers, and what this means for health promoting measures in the urban environment. The built environment appears to affect health and well-being of urban dwellers on both the individual and community level. However, in the process of developing healthy urban environments or health promoting measures in the urban environment, it is important to understand the different environmental dimensions. Article ΙΙ: With the rapid urbanization around the world, it is argued that the urban environment is an important arena for health promotion. The main aim in this study is to identify what creates health in an urban environment and how this is related to the actual urban design. This is a phenomenological study that includes in-depth interviews with three men and five women aged 23-65. Systematic text condensation was used to analyze the material and three categories were identified as health promoting factors of urban life: (1) Accessibility, (2) Variation and (3) Flexible social arenas. The study shows how the three categories are related to the actual urban design and how they can affect health and well-being of urban dwellers. It is also argued that these three categories are connected to each other and as a whole might facilitate healthy urban environments, and thus healthy urban dwellers.