International NHS competition sets out the winning design for life

People could get discounts off their shopping in exchange for exercising as part of plans that have won an international healthy living challenge laid down by NHS England.

The Healthy New Towns programme was launched in March 2016, with ten housing developments chosen to put good health at the heart of urban design and planning. The aim is to reduce pressure on the NHS by rethinking our lifestyles and the way health services are delivered.

One of these sites, Halton, was selected as the focus of a separate design challenge, as it was at the beginning of its plans and could make the most of bold new ideas.

The competition attracted 34 innovative bids from all across the world, including the USA, Spain, India and Japan but it was London-based Citiesmode and their vision for Halton that most impressed the judges from NHS England, the local clinical commissioning group, Halton Borough Council and Warrington & Halton Hospitals Trust.

Citiesmode’s winning design, called Halton Connected, will see a range of ideas go into development to help residents at all stages of their lives. The plans include:

  • Downloadable apps that reward walking with discounts at local shops.
  • An urban obstacle course connecting public gym equipment and sprinting tracks marked out on safe pavements.
  • A community kitchen that provides food to local schools, hospitals and Meals on Wheels as well as running healthy cooking lessons for local residents.
  • Developers providing new houses and flats with free bikes in order to cut car use and promote cycling.
  • Universal wifi so residents can get in touch with health services from home and make the most of new technology, such as online GP consultations which NHS England is backing to the tune of £45 million.
  • Converting a car park into a new community square and outdoor cinema, offering more chances to socialise, boost the sense of community and improve mental health.

Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, said: “If there’s to be a much needed wave of new housebuilding across England, let’s “design-in” health from the start. These practical designs for Halton point the way, uniting young and old in in thinking through the sort of communities we want for the future. The NHS makes no apologies for weighing in with good ideas on how the how the built environment can encourage healthy towns and supportive neighbourhoods.”

The local community is already getting involved with the plans. Children at nearby Ormiston Bolingbroke Academy and Hallwood Park Primary School have been coming up with their own designs for their town while the adults will be able to share ideas at two events later this month.

The final Halton Lea masterplan and delivery strategy is due at the beginning of January 2018.

Evidence for improving the way we live continues to stack up. Britain loses over 130 million working days to ill health each year, the Design Council estimates that a quarter of British adults walk for less than nine minutes a day and a 12-year University of Cambridge study showed that inactivity could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe.

A report by NHS Digital this year showed that in 2015/16, over one in five children in Reception, and over one in three children in Year 6 were measured as obese or overweight while the Building Research Establishment estimates that the 3.5 million homes in England that have serious hazards such as damp and pests has led to health problems that cost the NHS at least £1.4 billion every year.

David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council said of the challenge “This unique ‘Design Challenge’ has provided Halton’s Healthy New Town project with not one, but a variety of novel approaches to explore further, as we strive to create healthier neighbourhoods, connected by a strong sense of community that is firmly focused on individual wellbeing and opportunities for all.”

Mel Pickup, Chief Executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, home of the two hospitals at the centre of the Halton Lea healthy new town, said: “The trust has long championed a vision of being at the heart of the community through a modern, smaller acute hospital with integrated primary, wellbeing, community and social care support functions all working together around the needs of the patient and the community.  We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something truly transformational for our population.”

Sara Dilmamode, Director of Citiesmode, added: “We are of course absolutely delighted that our proposal was selected and we’re keen to work with NHS England and its delivery partners on projects that put health at the heart of planning.”