13 Jul 2023

Highlighting ways to promote health equity through land use planning

Understanding the vital role of land use planning and its potential to promote equitable health outcomes, the Western Sydney Health Alliance engaged the services of SPHERE's Healthy Urban Environments Collaboratory (HUE) and UNSW Sydney's Centre for Health Equity Training, Research, and Evaluation (CHETRE). The objective was to evaluate whether the State Government's land use planning instruments are applying an equity lens to enhance health outcomes and reduce health disparities.

The research involved a comprehensive analysis of 14 State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPPs) and eight Local Environmental Planning Policies (LEPs) in relation to NSW Health's Healthy Built Environment Checklist. The findings revealed a lack of clarity regarding the incorporation of health equity considerations within land use planning strategies. The research demonstrates that the current planning system frequently neglects the importance of promoting equity in health outcomes.

Although certain planning instruments acknowledged the importance of ensuring "equitable access," only a few of them offered explicit definitions of equity within a planning context. Furthermore, there was a scarcity of guidance on how to effectively achieve equity in health outcomes through these instruments.

These planning instruments have oversight of land use allocations, connections, transport modes, access to natural environments, public space design and amenity.

As part of the research, a comprehensive set of 14 indicators for Land Use Planning for Equitable Health Outcomes has been proposed. These indicators are specifically designed to support local governments in the Western Parkland City region, enabling them to assess and track healthy planning outcomes. By implementing these measures, local governments can effectively monitor progress and make informed decisions to foster healthier and more inclusive communities.

This research emphasizes the significance of incorporating health equity considerations into land use planning processes by taking into account the social determinants of health. Factors such as access to quality housing, transportation, parks, and healthy food play crucial roles in shaping health outcomes. By integrating these considerations, policymakers, urban planners, and community stakeholders can proactively address health disparities and work towards promoting equitable health outcomes for all residents.

A submission to State Government is currently being prepared on how a health lens applied to the current SEPPS and LEPs can lead to an inclusive and equitable legislative land use instrument.

Read the report.

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