New evidence demonstrates the importance of social infrastructure and local social services for health and wellbeing.

Take note: Urban planners; policymakers in local, state and federal government settings; non-government organisations and advocacy groups; architects; developers; designers.

Social infrastructure was spatially assessed and linked to health outcomes data of over 7,000 residents and both accessibility and mix of social infrastructure associated with better health and wellbeing. The results provide evidence that both accessibility and mix of social services are associated with better health and wellbeing outcomes.

We already know: Population growth is increasing, cities are growing and suburbs sprawling but we know that low density cities are not good for health. Where people live influences health and better health outcomes are associated with the provision of destinations within walking distances. Currently spatial planning for social infrastructure does not receive the same research attention as hard infrastructure systems like roads, telecommunications and water systems. There is an evidence gap linking social infrastructure location and provision to health outcomes.

What this study adds: Our study focused on social infrastructure accessible in residential areas. By this we mean community centres; sports, recreation and leisure centres; places of culture such as cinemas, libraries, museums and art galleries; state educational establishments and early year and out of school child care facilities; and a range of health and social care amenity centres.

This study provides a clear definition of neighbourhood social infrastructure. Through analysis we can now provide a deeper understanding of the role of that social infrastructure has in providing a healthy environment and supporting a more liveable community.

Implications for city policy and practice: Social infrastructure planning has direct implications on the health of residents and the liveability of communities. City planners must acknowledge that to secure better liveability and population health, we need new methods for the planning, delivery and on-going monitoring of social infrastructure delivery. This research provides new assessment and methods for social infrastructure planning to support the creation of equitable, healthy and liveable communities into the future.

Full article: Using spatial measures to test a conceptual model of social infrastructure that supports health and wellbeing

Additional information: link tbc

Authors: Melanie Davern, Lucy Gunn, Carolyn Whitzman (@CWhitzman), Carl Higgs, Billie Giles-Corti (@billiegc), Koen Simons, Karen Villanueva, Suzanne Mavoa, Rebecca Roberts, Hannah Badland
City Know-how editor: Marcus Grant