Sydney's population will grow by more than 2.1 million to 6.42 million people in the next 20 years, official government forecasts show.
This explosion in urban development is a major issue for Sydney Local Health District, as we grapple with a growing population that is aging and/or chronically unwell.
As part of our commitment to fostering urban health and wellbeing, the District invited Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman to share her expertise, insights and experience from her work in New Zealand.
Professor Howden-Chapman is a professor of Public Health at the University of Otago, Wellington, where she teaches public policy.
She is the director of He Kainga Oranga/Housing and Health Research Programme and the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities.
At the Sydney Urban Health and Wellbeing Research Forum, held in the Kerry Packer Education Centre at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Professor Howden-Chapman said cities shape health, and good governance is crucial.
“Cities are the key places to improve health,” she said.
She stressed the importance of basing policies on robust evidence and the need for multi-level coordinated governance to achieve results. Transport and land use policies do not have much effect on their own; but linked, they can make a difference, she said.
Professor Howden-Chapman outlined some of the randomised community housing trials her Centre has conducted, in partnership with local communities, and their influence on housing, health and energy policy.
These include retrofitted insulation and effective heating in rental housing, which reduced the number of days’ absence from schools due to illness and admissions to hospital. In addition, these measures had better outcomes in reducing asthma than the latest generation of medications, she said.
She also talked about setting up a “healthy home index”, which measures respiratory, injury hazards and energy efficiency of houses, and the rollout of an accreditation system for private landlords to raise the standards of rental properties.