UCL Institute for Environmental Design and Engineering


Use of evidence about the built environment and health by policy and decision-makers

30 November 2016

By Helen Pineo


Michael Davies

Nicole Zimmermann

Paul Wilkinson (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

2015 – ongoing

There is wide recognition that the environment’s impact on health is a complex system. Despite some uncertainty about the relationships between the built environment and health, there are calls for policy and decision-makers to incorporate health in all scales of urban development. While public health professionals use research evidence to design new policies and programmes, how do built environment practitioners use evidence to inform the development of health promoting environments?

Data from indicators are one form of evidence that professionals can use to understand local issues and inform policy and design solutions. A scoping review for this project identified 24 different tools communicating indicators about the urban environment’s impact on health and wellbeing to inform policy and decision-makers. Indicator projects seek to simplify complex systems and focus attention on important measures. This research explores whether and how indicators about environmental impacts on health and wellbeing inform policy and decision-making.

The research involves a two-part systematic review to: 1) identify all indicator systems regarding urban environment impacts on health and wellbeing and 2) analyse previous studies which explore the use of these systems. This is followed by qualitative investigation of several case study indicator systems to inform the development of a system dynamics model of the use of evidence.

This PhD is sponsored by the candidate’s employer, the Building Research Establishment (BRE).