Thursday, 11 February 2016

Built Environment Research: Brazil-UK Healthy Urban Mobility

The School of the Built Environment at Oxford Brookes University has been awarded funding under the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) UK-Brazil collaborative research call on Healthy Urban Living. The funding is for a project entitled Brazil-UK Healthy Urban Mobility, led by Tim Jones with Sue Brownhill, Ramin Keivani and Georgia Butina Watson in collaboration with three university partners in Brazil (University of Santa Catarina, University of Rio Grande do Sul and University of Brasilia).

The research, which started in January 2016, focuses on understanding the impact of personal mobility (and immobility) on both individual and community health and well-being in different neighbourhoods in Brazil and the UK, and will develop a participatory approach to cultivate and support healthy urban mobility and to address health inequalities and injustice. The image below is taken from an article on Healthy Cities in Latin America produced by The Guardian.

And now for some background (with thanks to Tim Jones)...

Since the initiation of World Health Organization movement on healthy cities more than thirty years ago there have been increased efforts to understand how the urban environment affects health outcomes and can produce more equitable health benefits. Take a look at the UK Healthy Cities Network for more information about what's happening in the UK.

A key concern is the way in which the physical fabric of cities affects urban mobility and how this relates to health and well-being. The design of the built environment itself can support and/or discourage walking and cycling ('active mobility') and many cities are working to address these issues as the promotion of moderate physical activity as part of daily travel routines has been shown to improve overall health and well-being. The trend in the Global North, particularly in countries like the UK, has been towards a decrease in physical activity and this is associated with more widespread private car use, obesogenic environments and greater mechanisation in the home, workplace and public places. Although this is beginning to change - find out more about the cycle-revolution taking place in London or the redesign of Odense in Denmark.

In the Global South, however, the rapid growth in private motorization and the lack of value placed on walking and cycling means the association between environmental attributes and active mobility are more complex. This is having a significant impact on the urban poor and low-income groups who already engage in, and rely on, walking and cycling (and public transport) to meet their daily travel needs. The implementation of healthy urban mobility as part of the broader Healthy Cities concept, therefore, presents serious challenges in both the Global South and Global North and requires different approaches towards its realisation.

And now back to the research project itself (thanks again to Tim Jones)...

The investigation will use a mixed method approach comprising five specific field research components

  • spatial mapping to understand the physical and built environment context in which mobility takes place
  • a social survey to capture mobility and health and well-being profiles of selected communities
  • in-depth biographic interviews to understand role of past experiences of mobility and the rationale behind selected modes of mobility
  • micro-ethnographies through mobile interviews to capture contemporary everyday experience of being mobile (or immobile)
  • a participatory approach to involve the local community in identifying problems and solutions for healthy urban mobility and community well-being

The work will be focused on Brazilia, Florianopolis and Porto Alegre (in Brazil) and on Oxford (in the UK). These locations have been selected because of their different spatial and demographic characteristics and the challenges they are facing in relation to promoting healthy urban mobility.

And finally how will the research make a difference?

Through the combination of novel research methods to experiment and assess and involve communities and stakeholders in active dialogue and mutual learning we hope to develop new approaches to mobility planning that seek to address health inequalities within urban areas.

For more information about the research, contact Tim Jones. Project website coming soon.

Grant title: BRAZIL-UK Healthy Urban Mobility (HUM)
RC Grant reference: ES/N01314X/1
Council: ESRC
Grant holder: Dr Tim Jones
Department: Faculty of Tech, Design and Environment

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