Cities with a higher density of housing have the highest rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK and more green spaces in cities could reduce the prevalence.
The health recommendation comes from an unusual source, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Whilst architects may not be experts in health, the figures presented provide compelling evidence and the report estimates that more green space within cities could save the NHS £675 million each year.
As part of the review, RIBA studied figures from the nine most populated cities in England, those being: London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bristol and Nottingham. The research showed that local authorities of major cities that had the best health figures were those with less housing density and more green space. Strikingly, the local authorities in cities with the highest rates of diabetes had double the housing density of the more healthy ones, and a quarter less green spaces.
The figures for obesity followed the same trends with the most highly populated areas and those with lower amounts of green space having the highest rates of adult and childhood obesity.
Lower amounts of green space and a higher density of housing, particularly flats with a greater number of stories, may make it less appealing or more difficult to take exercise.
A survey of 1,300 people showed that around 60% of people were not taking the recommended 2 and a half hours of exercise each week. Whilst physical activity targets were not being met, three quarters of those not reaching the target demonstrated a willingness to walk more.
RIBA are calling for local authorities to take health into account and integrate health policies with city planning.

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