Building Healthy, Equitable Communities – Culture, Health, and Placemaking

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Oct 14, 2018
by Oscar Tollast
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Building Healthy, Equitable Communities – Culture, Health, and Placemaking

Health professionals and urbanists explore culture's role in healthy placemaking Participants in discussion inside Parker Hall at Salzburg Global Seminar

Participants of Building Healthy, Equitable Communities: The Role of Inclusive Urban Development and Investment were taken to the United States, New Zealand, and South Africa as they explored culture’s role in healthy placemaking.

On Saturday morning, participants reflected on different experiences in these countries as they sought to answer, “What role can formal and informal culture play in healthy placemaking?”

The discussion kicked-off with an overview of Station Soccer, an initiative to level the playing field for youth in Atlanta, in the United States. The first model opened at Five Points Marta station, transforming a disused space into a five-a-side soccer pitch. The second location was West End, and it continues to expand. It is connecting children throughout the city and has made soccer a feasible option for those who lacked transport and the finances to play. In the process, it is also making public transportation more popular and better utilized.

Engaging with communities is about time, and a lot of it. Panuku Development Auckland is using placemaking to enable residents to play a role in the building of public places which are designed to benefit social, environmental, and economic outcomes.

Placemaking at Panuku is guided by Mana Whenau values. It works with a series of principles to ensure the places they work with and the people within them thrive.  

Participants learned that one of the consequences of apartheid in South Africa was moving black people out of urban areas to places with poor infrastructure. Once apartheid ended, there was mass urbanization no one had planned for. Within some urban areas, there is horizontal density, which equates to little space for cultural events to be practised. In this context, placemaking is not a response to cultural values, but what the culture of the local community chooses. Customs have to be understood to make a place work.

In Bayview, San Francisco, the United States, the community has been involved for the past five years to help activate the area. A series of community programs have taken place, and around 20,000 people have been engaged. The area had a history of trauma, which needed to be voiced. The community was given a space during this development to accommodate this trauma. This is not always common in other developments when perhaps it should be. A participant said, “Hurt people can hurt people, healed people can heal people.


The program Building Healthy, Equitable Communities: The Role of Inclusive Urban Development and Investment is part of Salzburg Global Seminar's multi-year series Health and Health Care Innovation. This year's program is held in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Keep up to date with the conversations taking place during the program. Follow #SGShealth on Twitter and Instagram.