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'Healthy towns' will be part-designed by the NHS

Ten new 'healthy towns' will be designed to help reduce childhood obesity, provide dementia-friendly environments, reduce falls, and promote exercise and healthy eating, Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England announced.

Speaking at The King's Fund in London, Stevens described the new towns as “some kind of idealised version of Amsterdam” to deal with three core problems: the health gap, care gap and money gap.

He recognised that this country desperately needs more affordable housing and it is "a huge missed opportunity if NHS is not involved in designing health into the built environment from the start" as “all too often the NHS has come too late to the party”.

The towns, stretching from Darlington to Devon, will include fast-food-free areas near schools, green spaces, dementia-friendly streets, and action to reduce falls of older people due to the built environment, and “tackle these things at source” he said.

Stevens will try to “design out the obesogenic environment for our kids, and design in support for independent living for older people and enable new ways of technology-enabled primary and community care right from the get-go.”

“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 towns will be designed in collaboration with expert clinicians, designers and technology experts in order to help create environments that promote healthy lifestyles.