An ecological public health approach to understanding the relationships between sustainable urban environments, public health and social equity
Bentley, M, An ecological public health approach to understanding the relationships between sustainable urban environments, public health and social equity, Health Promotion International, 29, (3) pp. 528-537. ISSN 0957-4824 (2013) [Refereed Article]
The environmental determinants of public health and social equity present many challenges to a sustainable urbanism-climate change, water shortages and oil dependency to name a few. There are many pathways from urban environments to human health. Numerous links have been described but some underlying mechanisms behind these relationships are less understood. Combining theory and methods is a way of understanding and explaining how the underlying structures of urban environments relate to public health and social equity. This paper proposes a model for an ecological public health, which can be used to explore these relationships. Four principles of an ecological public health - conviviality, equity, sustainability and global responsibility-are used to derive theoretical concepts that can inform ecological public health thinking, which, among other things, provides a way of exploring the underlying mechanisms that link urban environments to public health and social equity. Theories of more-than-human agency inform ways of living together (conviviality) in urban areas. Political ecology links the equity concerns about environmental and social justice. Resilience thinking offers a better way of coming to grips with sustainability. Integrating ecological ethics into public health considers the global consequences of local urban living and thus attends to global responsibility. This way of looking at the relationships between urban environments, public health and social equity answers the call to craft an ecological public health for the twenty-first century by re-imagining public health in a way that acknowledges humans as part of the ecosystem, not separate from it, though not central to it.
ecological health, public health model, urban environments, environmental justice