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UCL Festival of Culture: Urban Well-being

utnvlru31 May 2016

urban-wellbeingAs part of the UCL Festival of Culture, Dr Gustav Milne – Honorary senior lecturer in the UCL Institute of Archaeology –  gave a talk on Tuesday 24th May, entitled ‘Urban well-being: How to live paleolithically-correct lives in a 21st Century City’.

The idea that we as humans are not necessarily designed for the urban environments that many of us now dwell in is not necessarily a new one, but the extent to which this affects our health and life expectancy is more strikingly marked than might be expected.

Gustav began by outlining how our biology evolved thousands of years ago to support the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, and explained that while the environments we live in have changed, our basic physiology hasn’t. We were told that our biological legacy dates back 6 million years – our physiology and lung system have not really developed since then.

Gustav mentioned the Grand Challenges project that UCL Archaeology has partnered in with Transport for London and Arsenal football club, along with several other organisations, which examined the health profiles of different social groups and populations within Greater London.

The research carried out for this project discovered a noticeable difference in life-expectancy between residents in boroughs with large areas of green space, from those who live which are densely built-up and populated. Contrary to what we often hear, the figures obtained during this research indicate that it’s not about social class or income but where you live.

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UCL-Lancet Commission: Shaping Cities for Health

news editor6 June 2012

Jessica Lowrie, UCL Communications & Marketing intern.

By 2030, globally, three in five people will live in cities. Despite the perception that city living provides an ‘urban advantage’ over those who live in rural areas, those who live in poor urban areas can often have worse health outcomes than wealthier city residents, but also in comparison to rural dwellers.

Urban and economic growth will not automatically create an ‘urban advantage’ – public policy is needed to maintain and improve conditions to allow for such an advantage to exist.

Healthy cities
This concept was the foundation for an event held by the UCL-Lancet Commission on 30 May to launch their high-profile report on Healthy Cities, published on the same day.

The report was the second from the UCL-Lancet Commission, recognising the valued commitment from both organisations to UCL’s Grand Challenges (Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Intercultural Interaction and Human Wellbeing).

The well-organised and insightful event began with introductions from Professor David Price (UCL Vice-Provost – Research) and Professor Richard Horton (Editor, the Lancet).

Professor Yvonne Rydin (UCL Bartlett School of Planning), lead author of the report, then embarked on a comprehensive overview of the report and its main findings.

Professor Rydin explained that the report aimed “to understand how better health outcomes can be delivered through interventions in urban environments in cities across the world”.

Certain components of a healthy city seem obvious: good water and sanitation infrastructures, clean air, uncontaminated land, safe homes, opportunities for safe and active mobility and effective green infrastructure.

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