Liveability indicators link health and place in the Australian Urban Observatory and are critical to the development to the health and wellbeing of the population and a wellbeing economy. Evidence informed decision-making requires access to research designed for decision-makers.

For the attention of: City planners, policymakers, decision makers, students, advocacy agencies, non-government organisations, health professionals.

The problem: Current methods of city planning that aggregate and average results for large geographic areas like municipalities all to often mask health inequities and socio-spatial disadvantage. W need new forms of easy-to-understand research evidence to support evidence-informed policy and planning for city design. Evidence should be used to identify place-based liveability strengths and weaknesses linked to city design. This can also help prioritise actions that promote health, equity and sustainability in neighbourhoods across all areas of a city.

What we did and why: We developed the Australian Urban Observatory to make it easy for policymakers and planners across the 21 largest cities of Australia to incorporate research evidence on liveability into city planning. We made it easy to visualise what city liveability looks like down at the neighbourhood, suburb and municipal level. This is needed to identify liveability strengths and weaknesses, and to identify and prioritise liveability issues of policy or planning priority. It also helps monitor changes in city-based liveability over time. Most importantly we have campaigned to shift conversations and educate decision-makers about the impact of urban policy and planning decisions on health.

What our study adds: We developed a custom-made digital liveability planning platform giving us the ability to visualise the local liveability of over 40,000 neighbourhoods across 21 Australian cities and monitor changes in liveability over time. This research describes how the Australian Urban Observatory was developed to bridge the gap between academic research, policy and practice. It provides examples of how liveability research, tools and capacity building actions are supporting the translation of research knowledge into decision-making practice to support better designed and healthier Australian cities.

Implications for city policy and practice: Understanding local lived environments through the study of liveability provides an excellent model of linking integrated spatial planning that supports and encourages healthy and sustainable places. Liveability and health inequities are directly related to the decisions made in city planning departments. We demonstrate how new methods of data visualisation and research translation accessible through an Australian urban observatory are needed to understand, prevent and act on these unfair and avoidable differences within urban areas across the globe.

For further information: Australian Urban Observatory

Full research article: Liveability research creating real world impact: connecting urban planning and public health through the Australian Urban Observatory by Melanie Davern, Alan Both, Katherine Murray, Rebecca Roberts & Fadhillah Norzahari