The Built and Natural Environment

Year 1 Semester 1 

Credits 20

Research clearly shows that the built and natural environment has a significant impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of the population. There are clear social gradients in both the exposure to environmental hazards (such as air pollution) and access to environmental assets (such as green space) – in other words the poorest in society are more likely to be exposed to environmental conditions that can damage their health. 

In the UK, early in the last century, engineering and public health professionals worked closely together to ensure development (such as housing) reduced the spread of disease. These professions diverged as public health followed a more medical approach but they are now re-converging to once again ensure the linkages between the built and natural environment and public health inform the development of our towns and cities.

This module describes how factors such as the house we live in, the air we breathe, how we travel, the green space we access, the soil in our gardens, and the energy from the sun all impact on our physical and mental health and wellbeing. We examine the drivers (such as globalisation, the planning system, economic development) that produce the areas we live in. We will examine how to maximise the health gains from positive impacts such as green space and how to minimise the health risks from harmful factors such as the obesogenic environment.

We will also explore how public health works with other professions, especially urban planning and transportation. Here we will examine the interface between disciplines that have different understandings of what constitutes evidence and how this can be applied to real world practice.