Smart design and investment in sustainable public spaces can help increase levels of physical activity, reduce traffic injuries, urban violence and urban air pollution […] both protecting public health and mitigating climate change.

This quote summarises the key conclusions of a WHO side event at a Habitat III Thematic Meeting on Public Spaces. The event, which took place on 4-5 April 2016 in Barcelona, Apain, provided an opportunity to discuss links between public space, public health and climate change. It also served to identify good practice for, and barriers to, improving public spaces, focusing on case studies featuring recreational public spaces, walking and cycling, and access to local public markets.

Delegates agreed that “health can be a driver of cost-effective urban planning strategies and related transport mitigation strategies” and that this should be reflected in the New Urban Agenda. This will be adopted by UN Member States during Habitat III, the Third United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development, which will be held this October in Quito, Ecuador.

The NHS Forest promotes the active use of green space and blue spaces as there is overwhelming evidence of the value of the natural environment on people’s health and wellbeing, especially in urban areas. The project currently includes 160 sites across the UK, and we have recently set up several Green Health Routes so that doctors and nurses across the UK can offer ‘Green and Blue Prescriptions’ to their patients – encouraging them to walk, cycle and rest in their local natural environment.

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