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WSPs Helena Klintström explains importance of health equality

WSP's Helena Klintström explains importance of health equality

 April 26, 2023

What if we could plan our cities to reduce health inequalities?

WSP Head of Sustainable Urban Development, Helena Klintström, explains why it is impossible to create thriving and sustainable places, economies or businesses without a focus on equal health. 

"We urgently need to make cities more sustainable and equal. So, to hold them accountable, how about we use health equality in the built environment as an indicator?" asks Helena.

"Health equality is a very powerful litmus test for sustainability, not only because it is measurable, but also because when you create the conditions for wellbeing, you create places that perform well on many other levels. If people can meet their day-to-day needs by walking or cycling, and it’s safe for everyone to do so, this not only promotes active lifestyles and social interaction, but reduces carbon emissions and air pollution from cars. Green space in a city supports physical and mental health, but also climate change adaptation by offering protection from flooding and extreme temperatures. What is good for health equality is good for pretty much everything else."

Some of the things that we be done to tackle health inequality are self-evident, according to Helena. "It’s easy to see that walkable neighbourhoods, green space and active transportation support healthier lifestyles. Others are less obvious, such as not creating large monocultures of housing types or building physical barriers that segregate communities. None of these ideas is really new: aren’t these the same things we talk about when we talk about quality of life, or climate neutrality, or child and age-friendly cities?"

The physical manifestation of our priorities as a society

WSP Helena Klintstrom

"Urban development is the physical manifestation of our priorities as a society," says Helena. 

"The undeniable proof on whether we mean what we say. But if we were to review the reality of the past decades, it is evident that one of the most important factors - reduced inequalities in health - has not been prioritised."

Health equality needs to be a priority 

"Health equality is not yet top of the agenda for every society, but it is only a matter of time before it will have to be. It will become impossible to create thriving economies or businesses without it, and in the years to come, the winners will be the governments and corporations who succeed in delivering on this priority first," she says.

Read the article in full. 

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Disclosure: Where Women Work researches and publishes insightful evidence about how its paid member organizations support women's equality.

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