UNSW researchers have been working to ensure that the current multi-million dollar Liverpool Hospital redevelopment is designed for all people in the area - even if they never step foot in the building.
The $390 million redevelopment has undergone a health impact assessment (HIA), which has the twin objectives of promoting peoples' health and safeguarding against environment hazards.
"For many years, planners have looked at the environmental consequences of developments, but they haven't necessarily looked at the impact on peoples' health," says Ben Harris-Roxas, from the Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, who is part of a team that has done HIAs on 15 NSW government initiatives, including the Liverpool Hospital redevelopment.
The Liverpool Hospital HIA was done with Sydney South West Area Health Service and looked at the impacts of construction and traffic changes, as well as how levels of physical activity and air quality might be improved.
"HIAs help us to improve new developments, in order to maximise the health benefits and to minimise health risks," he says. "It's not just about what causes disease or injury, it's thinking about what makes us healthy, such as individual behaviours, the community we live in and the way that's structured."
The team from the Centre, which is in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine, has received a $1 million grant from the state government for the work.
"We're seeing the effects of people being car-dependent, which has air quality implications and physical health ones too," said Harris-Roxas. "The way we've designed suburbs is profoundly unhealthy. They discourage us from being connected to our neighbours or from walking anywhere. We need to urgently re-think how we plan and design our environment."