Active healthy communities can add value to the community planning process. The social and personal wellbeing of citizens are key underlying resources for any community, and are objectives of the community planning process itself under the theme of economic development. Active healthy communities contribute to all of the minimum themes that Council needs to consider in the community planning process.
How does active healthy communities contribute to Community Plan themes?
Planning for an active and healthy community increases social well-being through:
- enhancing neighbourhood revitalisation
- increasing social cohesion and sense of community identity
- expanding social networks.
Providing active healthy lifestyle opportunities, programs and activities, such as walking groups, community gardens and kitchens, public breastfeeding facilities, local parks, green spaces, trails and paths, outdoor tai chi groups, walk-to-school groups and physical activity programs, not only help increase the community’s personal wellbeing but also provide social networking opportunities and enhance people’s perception of their community, which also in turn creates greater community ownership and care for local facilities and resources. Recreation, cultural and environmental associations, and organisations for children, young people and older adults engage people in voluntary activities and play a particularly important part in building social cohesion. Dance, sport and farmers’ markets provide opportunities to celebrate ethnic diversity and enrich the cultural fabric of community life. Policies that improve walkability and land-use mix are likely to increase overall community cohesion through urban design that helps increase community safety by encouraging people out onto the streets.
Social wellbeing is also derived from the act of community planning itself. Actively involving community members in decision-making and the planning of their community has social wellbeing benefits for participants. It can also build capacity, skills and confidence in Council and their local community, enabling them to tackle wider community issues.
There are economic benefits for Local Government areas that invest in active and healthy communities, including:
- supporting local food production
- saving money on transport services and health care
- having more productive citizens and workers
- the area being more liveable and attractive to residents, employers and visitors.
People want to live in and visit places where they can be active, be “out and about” and socialise in active ways. Events and activities that feature active healthy lifestyles are an important way to attract tourism. Employers also benefit, since having a physically active and healthy workforce can lead to reductions in absenteeism and increased productivity. The need for funds for transport infrastructure is reduced in medium- or high-density towns and cities where trips can be made by foot or bike. Active and healthy communities can also help reverse human suffering and the high economic costs of inactivity and unhealthy eating in terms of health and social services. Australian data shows people that are active and healthy have lower annual direct health care costs than inactive unhealthy people, and that increasing regular moderate physical activity and healthy eating among inactive and unhealthy adults might reduce the annual national direct health care costs by many millions of dollars.
Creating active and healthy communities also has environmental benefits, including:
- less air and noise pollution
- reduced production of greenhouse gas emissions and use of carbon, water and energy resources
- protection of the ecosystem and increased biodiversity
- better access to green spaces, community gardens and good quality agricultural land
- creating a sustainable environment.
In addition to reduced physical activity opportunities, the increasing use of cars has also increased problems related to noise, air pollution and road traffic injuries. Promoting walking and cycling as an alternative to car use leads to improvements in all these serious community health issues.
Urban agriculture such as community gardens and city farms provides green space in urban areas and encourages food production by providing gardeners a place to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. Urban agriculture also takes advantage of the available water and nutrients, reduces food transport and storage requirements as well as greenhouse gas emissions, and contributes to storm-water management and an enhanced habitat.
While Council has a custodian role in initiating, preparing and maintaining the Community Plan on behalf of the Local Government area, there are many other stakeholders that can contribute to its implementation. There are a range of partners in local communities that can contribute to delivering the long-term health and wellbeing objectives of the plan. Potential partners may include:
- State government agencies such as the Department of Health, Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services; Department of Transport and Main Roads; Department of Education, Training and Employment; Department of Environment and Heritage Protection; Department of Natural Resources and Mines; and Queensland Police Service
- Elected officials
- Tourism organisations
- Voluntary groups
- Representatives of residents and special groups
- Informal groups
- Not-for-profit sector such as Heart Foundation, Cancer Council, Nutrition Australia, Red Cross, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council, Australian Breastfeeding Association
- Private providers of physical activity and healthy eating programs and facilities
- Employers and employees
- Food retailers, manufacturers and producers – local and large-scale
- Corporate sponsors
- Mass media