Exploring the potential for planning support systems to bridge the research-translation gap between public health and urban planning

Paula Hooper, Claire Boulange, Gustavo Arciniegas, Sarah Foster, Julian Bolleter, Chris Pettit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Background: There is consensus that planning professionals need clearer guidance on the features that are likely to produce optimal community-wide health benefits. However, much of this evidence resides in academic literature and not in tools accessible to the diverse group of professionals shaping our cities. Incorporating health-related metrics into the planning support systems (PSS) provides an opportunity to apply empirical evidence on built environment relationships with health-related outcomes to inform real-world land use and transportation planning decisions. This paper explores the role of planning support systems (PSS) to facilitate the translation and application of health evidence into urban planning and design practices to create healthy, liveable communities. Methods: A review of PSS software and a literature review of studies featuring a PSS modelling built environmental features and health impact assessment for designing and creating healthy urban areas was undertaken. Customising existing software, a health impact PSS (the Urban Health Check) was then piloted with a real-world planning application to evaluate the usefulness and benefits of a health impact PSS for demonstrating and communicating potential health impacts of design scenarios in planning practice. Results: Eleven PSS software applications were identified, of which three were identified as having the capability to undertake health impact analyses. Three studies met the inclusion criteria of presenting a planning support system customised to support health impact assessment with health impacts modelled or estimated due to changes to the built environment. Evaluation results indicated the Urban Health Check PSS helped in four key areas: visualisation of how the neighbourhood would change in response to a proposed plan; understanding how a plan could benefit the community; Communicate and improve understanding health of planning and design decisions that positively impact health outcomes. Conclusions: The use of health-impact PSS have the potential to be transformative for the translation and application of health evidence into planning policy and practice, providing those responsible for the policy and practice of designing and creating our communities with access to quantifiable, evidence-based information about how their decisions might impact community health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number36
JournalInternational Journal of Health Geographics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


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