In the recent past, the attention of town planners has been on urban design that helps counteract the causes of chronic diseases. But the origins of town planning demonstrate that it has an important role to play in the management of infectious disease, too. JCU Associate Professor Lisa Law discusses how planning and urban design could change our cities in the aftermath of COVID-19.
“It was with improving people’s health in mind, that planning originated,” Lisa says. The foundational moments of town planning and urban design sprang from public health concerns and the desire to ease the spread of disease.
In quickly-growing cities like London, Paris and New York, measures were introduced to separate waste removal from drinking supplies, to zone heavy industry away from residential neighbourhoods and to provide wider boulevards and greenspace for leisure and exercise.
For the past few decades, the public health origins of planning and urban design have narrowed to centre on chronic diseases. “We’ve created these cities where people are just using cars, they’re not walking,” Lisa says. “As a result, we’ve needed to think about chronic health, heart disease, obesity and even asthma. And so, that’s what planning has been thinking about.”