Monday, August 12, 2019

Planning, equality and health

On 22 July the Department of Health and Social Care published and ‘open consultation (Green Paper) Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s

There is no closing date for responses to the consultation for which an online questionnaire is provided, although a word document could be sent to the social care Minister Caroline Dinenage MP 

There are about 15 specific questions relating matters affecting our health and wellbeing.   Most of these questions have been around for a long time and there is good reason to suppose that they will be dragging society down for many more unless and until a more fundamental approach is taken by our central Government.  For the purpose of this blog it is important to note that ‘living conditions’ are identified as an underlying cause of illness, stress and premature death.  So those with concern for housing and green (and blue) infrastructure have the opportunity to suggest to  the Minister that the discovery that trees can contribute to a healthier environment could justify the adoption of  the principles and methodologies being advocated by the National Forest Garden Scheme and to support the movement to promote bioregions as the guiding principle for land use planning.  The Government should be made aware that the housing model being promoted by developers, Homes England, Growth Boards and Local Planning Authorities has produced swathes of anti-social housing.  By pandering to privacy we are the loneliest people in Europe and new models of community-led housing should become the norm.

Another point that could be made is the identification of stress and anxiety being caused by growing awareness of the effects of climate change. This will impact on sleep deprivation (one of the specific questions) and levels of mental health.  In this respect carbon reduction targets are a matter for the Department.

But the main problem is that this and previous Governments will not see these issues as being symptomatic of the levels of inequality that make the UK world leading in this respect.  For example, the percentage of people in prison in a country is directly correlated to levels of inequality and this leads to proposals to build more prisons.  Until we become more equal (even if this coincides with use becoming poorer – see The Spirit Level 2009 by Wilkinson and Pickett) these issues will remain intractable.

A final thought about inequality.  The comparison made in The Spirit Level to show that more economically equal countries have fewer social problems cannot be made between this world and any other.  It is unlikely that any earlier period would reveal a more equal world for such comparative study to be carried out.  However, on an absolute basis, Government should be made aware that inequality has a divisive and corroding effect and fighting against inequalities across the world is likely to have a beneficial effect on its own population.