Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 1st 2014 Contents Minister of Health, Dr
Fuad Khan, in a recent
about the unhealthy
lifestyles of the people
He suggested this has resulted in various
ailments and has been partially responsible
for serious overcrowding in the nation s hos-
pitals. He also observed that the situation will
worsen if people continue with their unhealthy
lifestyles. These critical matters have impli-
cations for the health of the citizenry and for
national public expenditure.
There are several factors which impact and
cause the so called "unhealthy lifestyles" of
people and spatial planning is one such factor.
Spatial planning---which focuses on the expres-
sion of human needs and requirements in
physical space---can assist in addressing these
concerns, since there is an acknowledged pos-
itive relationship between effective spatial
planning and healthier populations.
The negative impacts of people s unhealthy
lifestyles have long been the subject of aca-
demic research. Chronic non-communicable
diseases (NCDs) such as hypertension, diabetes,
and obesity have been associated with a lack
of physical activity and exercise. These can
affect persons of any age, gender or socioe-
Leaders of government within Caricom have
also recognised the importance of addressing
the growing incidences of NCDs in the region.
The Port-of-Spain Summit Declaration (2007)
highlighted the critical need to prevent and
control chronic NCDs in the Caribbean. This
urgency is fuelled by factors such as the impor-
tance of healthy populations to the develop-
ment of the region and the costs associated
with treating persons afflicted with these dis-
Public open spaces and active living
Active living through physical activity and
exercise can improve people s health and well-
being. Well-designed, accessible and equipped
public open spaces can foster physical activity
and exercise. Public open spaces such as parks,
squares, recreational grounds and playgrounds
must be planned for all communities.
In addition to possessing spiritual, psycho-
logical, amenity, and environmental value,
these quality communal spaces also foster
daily opportunities for walking, cycling, active
sports and children s play. Care must be taken
to provide, maintain, and preserve these spaces
because of their importance in improving the
health of all citizens.
Role of spatial planners
In light of this relationship between effective
spatial planning and healthier populations,
spatial planners have a significant role to play
in fostering active living.
This role is especially critical at the policy
making level. Spatial planners must continually
seek to inform national policies and help to
translate them into a spatial environment that
promotes healthy populations. Planners must
also strongly advocate for intersectoral, com-
prehensive and integrated policy interventions.
The Town and Country Planning Division
(TCPD) also has an important role. It must
collaborate with municipal corporations, the
Ministry of Health, the T&T Society of Plan-
ners and other relevant stakeholders in the
preparation of land use policies and plans and
the development of standards.
The TCPD must ensure that public spaces
are structured to engender and enhance well-
ness. Modern approaches must be used in
the design, layout and equipping of public
open spaces to promote equity in access and
enjoyment by all citizens. There must also
be more green infrastructure within urban
centres and communities.
Greater efforts must be made within exist-
ing neighbourhoods to innovatively retrofit
these communities with active and passive
recreation spaces, through involvement of
the residents who know the value of these
open spaces and deserve to enjoy the health
benefits they offer.
The Minister of Health can take some con-
solation in the fact that spatial planners
appreciate the critical link between the health
and wellness of populations and how our
physical space is planned.
Specific reference is made here to the pro-
vision of public open spaces in urban and
rural communities, aimed chiefly at the pro-
motion of active living.
Spatial planning may be regarded as an
important ingredient in the recipe for fostering
healthy lifestyles and in managing the inci-
dences of chronic NCDs.
In fact, effective spatial planning can be
seen as preventive medicine taken to ensure
wellness in citizens. After all, physical planning
has as its impetus public health and safety.
This offsets the increasingly costly medicine
needed to treat the many persons suffering
with chronic NCDs in T&T and across the
region. Governments within the region would
also be spared the major expenditure asso-
ciated with the management of NCDs.
Now and in the future, national sectoral
policies and spatial planning must have the
health of all citizens as a priority.
This column was submitted by a member
of the T&T Society of Planners.
BG16 | COMMENTARY
BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt MAY 2014 • WEEK ONE
T&T Society of Planners
Spatial planning and active living
Port of Spain
"This was an exceptional workshop! I am now
very informed in the subject and I have been
applying the concepts and principles learnt. Both
instructors were excellent facilitators. Thank you."
- Kamini Heeralal-Khan, General Manager Human
Resources (Ag.), Trinidad & Tobago Postal Corporation
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