Organisations looking to improve air quality and/or reduce the exposure to air pollution in urban areas are to benefit from a new report published today by Design Council and Impact on Urban Health.  

Addressing Urban Health Inequities: Eight Design Principles for Working with People to Reduce Air Pollution brings together insights gathered by Design Council from a diverse group of experts across the world – including those working in air quality science, urban planning, product design, community engagement and urban mobility. Drawing on their findings, the publication includes key recommendations for local authorities, businesses, communities and others designing or running air quality projects in urban areas.  

Design Council’s research forms part of Impact on Urban Health’s 10-year programme, launched in 2020. The programme aims to understand how people’s health is affected by poor air quality in the London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark, while exploring how the health effects of air pollution intersect with other systemic causes of ill-health. Over the course of the programme, Impact on Urban Health will work with local government, industry and the communities most affected by air pollution, to make sure any interventions work for them.  

The eight principles highlighted in Addressing Urban Health Inequities are: 

  • Build on data and evidence 
  • Take practical and meaningful action, and lead by example 
  • Change people’s perception by improving communication 
  • Introduce stringent environmental regulation 
  • Ensure that interventions and their outcomes are just and equitable
  • Always keep the big picture in mind and prepare for potential risks 
  • Have the tenacity and courage to make a difference 
  • Think long-term in implementation and in the evaluation of impact 

Gyorgyi Galik, Interim Head of Programmes at Design Council, said: “Design Council works with communities, local authorities and national infrastructure providers across the UK to create places which improve people’s health and wellbeing. Ensuring that we can all breathe cleaner air is a key part of our work. Addressing Urban Health Inequities will be helpful reading for anyone looking to improve air quality in urban areas and improve health outcomes for all. Beyond raising awareness, the report outlines the structural and infrastructural, economic and political barriers that also need to be overcome to bring about real change. I am grateful to our expert contributors for outlining how they have been addressing this complex challenge and for sharing such excellent examples of air quality projects from across the globe”.

Anthony Mysak, Portfolio Manager at Impact of Urban Health, said: “Our 10-year programme will involve testing, iterating and evaluating practical interventions to improve health outcomes for the people in Lambeth and Southwark who are most susceptible to the health effects of air pollution — including children, older people and people with heart and lung conditions. The design principles set out in Addressing Urban Health Inequities will provide invaluable guidance to our health effects of air pollution programme and other organisations looking to achieve similar impact around the world”.

Key contributors to Design Council’s research include: Bill Aboudi, President of Oakland Port Services; Rachel Aldred, Professor of Transport and Director of Active Travel Academy at the University of Westminster; Nicolas Smith de la Carrera, architect and planner from Concepcion, Chile; Cllr Clyde Loakes, Councillor for Leytonstone Ward, London Borough of Waltham Forest; Fred Luhrmann, Manager of Exposure Assessment Studies and Sonoma Technology Inc; Megan Prier, Project Manager at Hyphae Design Laboratory; Fred Manson, former Head of Planning at London Borough of Southwark.

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