Planning Australia’s Healthy Built Environments, by Jennifer L. Kent and Susan Thompson, New York, Routledge, 2019.
Reviewed by: Dr. Tony Matthews, Griffith University
Jennifer Kent and Susan Thompson’s excellent new book, Planning Australia’s Healthy Built Environments, depicts the intersections between contemporary urban planning and human health in Australia. Drawing on a growing body of empirical research, it demonstrates how urban structure, governance, form, and function influence human health across multiple domains. Australia, despite its outback and frontier image, is one of the most urbanised nations in the world, with almost 90% of people living in cities. Enhancing human health is therefore a matter of national priority for urban planning practice and research.
A central tenet of the book is “social determinants of health”. This encapsulates how human health is strongly conditioned by the social, economic, and biophysical environments we inhabit. Another tenet is that of a “healthy built environment”. Such places have positive impacts on health, with urban design and transport well planned to allow people to lead healthy lives. Active transport infrastructure, plentiful greenspaces, housing diversity, and high-quality public spaces are essential. The pursuit of healthy built environments is conceptually connected to the overall health of the planet throughout — if that is in decline, then human health and wellbeing will also decline.
Healthy built environments, planned to holistically incorporate the social determinants of good health, are the goal. How to get there in the Australian context is the focus of this book. It is structured in three parts to address this task: Introducing Australia; Domains of Wellbeing; Domains of the Built Environment. It is well-written, accessible, interesting, and timely. Its specific focus on Australia is a welcome addition to the literature. It will be of value to national and international audiences of scholars, students, and practitioners.
The full book review will appear in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Urban Affairs.
The reviewer may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.