New ‘healthy towns’ to be designed to combat obesity and dementia

New ‘healthy towns’ will be introduced in the UK to encourage children to exercise and support elderly people through their environment.

The 10 towns, chosen from 114 applications for the government’s new Healthy Towns programme, have been launched by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens in a speech at the King’s Fund today.

They include Whitehill and Bordon in Hampshire, which will build 3,350 new homes including ‘care-ready homes’ designed to be adaptable to the needs of people with long-term conditions with a nurse-led treatment centre, pharmacy and integrated care hub.

Cranbrook in Devon, which has three times the national average of 0-4 year-olds, has also been selected and will look at how prevention and healthy lifestyles can be taught in schools from a young age as it builds 8,000 new homes.

For full details on the 10 demonstrator sites, click here.

Stevens said: “As these new neighbourhoods and towns are built, we'll kick ourselves if in 10 years’ time we look back having missed the opportunity to 'design out' the obesogenic environment, and 'design in' health and wellbeing.

“We want children to have places where they want to play with friends and can safely walk or cycle to school - rather than just exercising their fingers on video games. We want to see neighbourhoods and adaptable home designs that make it easier for older people to continue to live independently wherever possible.

“And we want new ways of providing new types of digitally-enabled local health services that share physical infrastructure and staff with schools and community groups.”

The other 10 sites are:

  • Darlington – 2,500 residential units across three linked sites in the Eastern Growth Zone
  • Barking Riverside – 10,800 residential units on London’s largest brownfield site
  • Whyndyke Farm in Fylde, Lancashire – 1,400 residential units
  • Halton Lea, Runcorn – 800 residential units
  • Bicester, Oxon – 393 houses in the Elmsbrook project, part of 13,000 new homes planned
  • Northstowe, Cambridgeshire – 10,000 homes on former military land
  • Ebbsfleet Garden City, Kent – up to 15,000 new homes in the first garden city for 100 years
  • Barton Park, Oxford – 885 residential units

In total, the new initiative will cover more than 76,000 homes and 170,000 people.

Options to be tested at some of these sites include fast food-free zones near schools, incorporating ‘adventure playgrounds’ into safe and green public spaces to encourage children to play, building dementia-friendly streets and ensuring people can access new GP services using digital technology to help older people stay in their homes.

Professor Kevin Fenton, national director for health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said: “Some of the UK’s most pressing health challenges – such as obesity, mental health issues, physical inactivity and the needs of an ageing population - can all be influenced by the quality of our built and natural environment.

“The considerate design of spaces and places is critical to promote good health. This innovative programme will inform our thinking and planning of everyday environments to improve health for generations to come.”

Public Health England figures found that in 2014-15, 19.1% of children in England in Year 6 were obese and 14.2% were overweight.

Among adults, 26% of men and 23.8% of women are obese, and obesity costs the NHS over £5bn a year.

The release of the government’s strategy on child obesity has repeatedly been pushed back, and it was announced last week that it won’t take place until the summer, angering health campaigners.

Tony Armstrong, chief executive of community organisations network Locality, said: “NHS England’s ‘healthy towns’ initiative is an exciting opportunity to improve the health and wellbeing of thousands of people all over England but we need to ensure that strong, engaged communities are at their heart if they’re to do what it says on the tin.

“We know that obesity, sedentary lifestyles and isolation are growing and that the built environment can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of communities; green spaces and infrastructure can encourage walking, cycling, interaction between people in the street and outdoor play for children.

“But these new towns need to be built on the strong foundations of community involvement if they truly are to be ‘healthy’. They need resilient community organisations at their hearts to support people to come together and shape the priorities for their local area and to create healthy, thriving communities.

“In planning and developing these communities, it is vital that we don’t just focus on the bricks and mortar, but also support the development of strong community infrastructure and make sure that local people are involved in decisions which affect their local area from day one.”



There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest news

View all News


NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental ... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >

editor's comment

26/06/2020Adapting and Innovating

Matt Roberts, National Health Executive Editorial Lead. NHE May/June 2020 Edition We’ve been through so much as a health sector and a society in recent months with coronavirus and nothing can take away from the loss and difficulties that we’ve faced but it vital we also don’t disregard the amazing efforts we’ve witnessed. Staff have gone above and beyond, whole hospitals and trusts have flexed virtually at will to meet demand and pressures and we’ve... read more >

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our Last Word Q&A series. Would you talk us throu more > more last word articles >


Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

24/10/2019Matt Hancock says GP recruitment is on the rise to support ‘bedrock of the NHS’

Today, speaking at the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) annual... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Covid-19 can signal a new deal with the public on health

28/08/2020Covid-19 can signal a new deal with the public on health

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers & Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Confederation The common enemy of coronavirus united the public side by side wi... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >

healthcare events

events calendar


September 2020

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
31 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 1 2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11

featured articles

View all News