Post-war neighbourhoods in industrialised countries negatively affect some health choices for residents’ lifestyles. Redesign may help to facilitate more physical activity of social interaction, for example; but only effectively if also involving residents. We piloted a procedure to select locations for redesign and health determinants to be addressed, integrating data from designers, care professionals and residents.

For the attention of: Urban policy makers; practitioners working on healthy cities; community leaders.

The problem: A major challenge of urban redesign to improve city health is involving residents, urban design and health and social care professionals jointly. Such redesign is in particular needed for post-war urban neighbourhoods, built in the period between 1950 and 1970 in Europe. Urban redesign of these neighbourhood seems promising to enhance the physical activity and social connections of residents. Methods are needed to involve residents in such a process of redesign. We address this challenge.

What we did and why: We focussed on the selection of locations to be redesigned and the health determinants to be addressed. For this, we collected data from three perspectives: spatial analyses by urban designers; interviews with experts in local health and social care; and surveys among residents. Next, we organised consensus meetings covering all perspectives to select three locations to be redesigned, and to select the core determinants per location.

What our study adds: We developed an empirical procedure, addressing residents’ perspectives, based on various data sources and a consensus process. That led to selection of the following types of locations and determinants (in brackets):

  • An area adjacent to a central shopping mall (social interaction, traffic safety, physical activity)

  • A park (experiencing green, physical activity, social safety, social interaction)

  • A block of low-rise row houses around a public square (social safety, social interaction, traffic safety)

Implications for city policy and practice: Our procedure on the selection of locations and topics to promote health in a post-war neighbourhood is promising to be used in other settings. It can be the basis for urban interventions. For example, with redesign using virtual reality techniques to further involve residents, and evaluation after their implementation. This offers a promising approach to realise healthier cities.

For further information:

Expertise centre: Architecture, Urbanism and Health.

Youtube video: Selection and design stages of the project (in Dutch, with English translation) and set-up of the project, an interview with Cor Wagenaar.

Groningen, Paddepoel Neighbourhood: website of the neighbourhood council (in Dutch).

Full research article: Making post-war urban neighbourhoods healthier: involving residents’ perspectives in selecting locations for health promoting urban redesign interventions by Sijmen A. Reijneveld, Marijke Koene, Jolanda Tuinstra, Stefan C. van der Spek, Manda Broekhuis and CorWagenaar