Healthy Active by Design - advocating for healthy Australian hearts

The Heart Foundation advocates for environments that promote and support physical activity. We have developed the Healthy Active by Design (HAbD) tool to provide resources and support to organisations who are interested in the development of healthy, liveable places and spaces.

The Heart Foundation is working in partnership with a range of industry, government, non-government and academic organisations to create environments that support healthier living through better planning, built environments and transport solutions.

We are creating positive change and are directly influencing healthy active urban planning within our states and territories.

Australian Government's role in the development of cities

In 2017, the Heart Foundation was invited to contribute to the Standing Committee on Infrastructure, Transport and Cities when it held a Public Hearing in Melbourne.

The Committee is currently holding an inquiry to explore the Australian Government's role in the development of cities. The Heart Foundation was represented at the Hearing by Professor Anna Timperio, who spoke about the importance of "… the implementation of National Urban Design policies that enable active living for Australians of all ages and abilities in cities and towns".

The speakers acknowledged the "widspread recognition that the built environment plays an important role in encouraging or discouraging active living across all age groups". Healthy Active by Design was highlighted as an excellent example of an evidence-based resource to guide policy and practice for developing livable places and spaces that support active living. Professor Timperio concluded her opening remarks by noting that "Adopting healthy planning and design principles that cater for all ages and abilities across Australian cities and towns, is a critical part of the solution for supporting active living and reducing the burden of disease in Australia".

44% of Australian adults and 80% of Australian children do not undertake the recommended amount of physical activity. It is also not the norm for children to walk or ride their bicycles to get to school. Professor Timperio drew upon the well established link between physical inactivity and increased cardiovascular disease, as well as other chronic health conditions. "Increasing rates of walking and cycling through pedestrian- and cycle-friendly design is an important part of reducing the burden of disease in Australia and can also have other important environmental benefits including a decrease in the reliance on motorised transport". Read the full transcript here.

Image courtesy of the National Capital Authority

Australian Capital Territory

The Territory Plan

The vision for Canberra is to be a healthy, active city that is well connected, compact and equitable.  Heart Foundation ACT has been working with ACT Government since 2009 to 'create a built environment that supports a more active Canberra and promote the uptake of active living within the ACT community’.

To assist with this vision and improve the long-term health of the Territory community, the ACT Legislative Assembly has approved 45 changes into the Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) statutory planning framework (the Territory Plan) by way of incorporating Active Living Principles into the Territory Plan to frame the built and natural environment in promoting healthy active living within the ACT.

Canberra is the first jurisdiction in Australia to implement these principles into a statutory planning framework! 

On a national basis, the Active Living program also aligns with the Heart Foundation’s national program - Healthy Active By Design (HAbD) as both initiatives demonstrate best practice in how new communities or retrofitting existing communities can make it easier for all Australians to be more active and improve health and wellbeing through the design of the built and natural environment.

Read the Heart Foundation ACT advisory documents here.


Plan Melbourne

In the lead up to Plan Melbourne 2017-2050, the Heart Foundation hosted a series of workshops as part of a Cross Government Partnership to support the Implementation of a 20 minute neighbourhood. The partnership involved a number of State Government departments and agencies in a series of workshops to integrate evidence, evaluate current practice and to inform future work and systems change. Critical to this work was a robust evidence base for the opportunities to support health and active living through planning and design. The result of this work was the successful definition and integration of the concept of a 20 minute neighbourhood into Plan Melbourne with particular reference to the opportunity to support environments for Healthy Active Living.

Healthy Neighbourhoods SPPF and Urban Design Guidelines

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) gazetted Planning Scheme Amendment VC139, to include Clause 15.01-6: Healthy Neighbourhoods State Planning Policy within Built Environment and Heritage. The objective of this Amendment is to “achieve neighbourhoods that foster healthy and active living and community well-being.” This aligns closely with Healthy Active by Design (HAbD) objectives, which aims to assist with the development of healthy neighbourhoods that promote walking, cycling and public life.

In order to successfully implement the VC139 Amendment at a Local Government level, new Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria, 2017 have also been released. The Urban Design Guidelines for Victoria provides explanations and suggestions to demonstrate how each guideline can be implemented as part of the built form. This document can now be referred to by Councils when responding to a Planning Permit Application to commence or alter a development to create a healthier design outcome. The new Urban Design elements align very closely with the HABD Design Features.

Cardinia Shire Council

In 2017 Cardinia Shire Council introduced Planning Scheme Amendment C208, which inserted new local policies into the Municipal Strategic Statement to encourage built environment outcomes for active healthy lifestyles. The amendment adds the Heart Foundation’s Healthy by Design as a reference document to their Municipal Strategic Statement (MSS). The MSS outlines the ways that each Council will achieve State Planning Objectives in a way that is locally appropriate. This gives Council planners an opportunity to require development applications to optimise health and wellbeing outcomes.

South Australia

The 30-Year Plan

The 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide 2017 was launched on 28/05/17 by Hon John Rau MP the former Minister for Planning. The Plan sets out the state government’s vision for the growth and development of this most populated part of South Australia to 2036.

Since the release of The 30-Year Plan for Greater Adelaide in 2010 there have been significant shifts in the economic and social landscape impacting Greater Adelaide.

The updated plan sets out how the Government will address population growth, an ageing population, affordable housing, active travel, protecting our food bowl, infill and density, and smaller households.

The Heart Foundation as the lead on the SA Active Living Coalition developed an advocacy strategy to influence the targets and to ensure the inclusion of healthy built environment elements – particularly around:

  1. Infill and higher density development
  2. Quality open space and green cover
  3. Housing diversity and affordability
  4. Active transport
  5. Healthy Active by Design principles

The Heart Foundation is pleased to see the Plan’s focus on thoughtful higher density development in areas where local destinations, quality open space, amenity, and regular transport options exist. These neighbourhoods increase the opportunity for walking for travel, recreation and daily living.

The Heart Foundation is thrilled to see the Plan focus on healthy, walkable neighbourhoods that reflects our state’s need to address chronic disease and risk factors. The word “health” appears 71 times; the word “walk” and “walkable” appears 76 times.

The Plan reflects the Heart Foundation SA advocacy around health in planning, walking and active living over the past 10 years.

Read the SA Active Living Coalition’s submission to the draft plan here.

Northern Territory

2018 Pre-Budget Submission

In the lead up to the 2018 Budget Heart Foundation NT implored the Northern Territory Government to do more to tackle its largest and most costly component, cardiovascular disease and successfully meet the chronic disease challenge through eight cost effective actions with action area 4 being:

  • Prioritise active transport (walking, cycling and public transport) and related healthy urban planning.

Currently, less than half of Territorians participate in sufficient physical activity (ABS, National Health Survey)

In addition, action area 2 – Strengthen Tobacco Control - advocates for increasing buffer zones and banning eating in outdoor eating facilities and educational facilities.

Northern Territory Active Recreation Strategy 2018 – 2023

Heart Foundation NT were pleased to be included as part of the working group for the development of the Northern Territory Government, Department of Tourism and Culture Active Recreation Strategy 2018-2023.

This strategy focusses on three action areas:

  • Active communities
  • Active by design, which refers to Healthy Active by Design, and
  • Active leadership.

Building Confidence through Better Planning for the Northern Territory; Review, reframe, renew submission

In December 2017 Heart Foundation, Northern Territory Division, welcomed the opportunity to provide comments with respect to the Northern Territory Government (Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics) Building Confidence through Better Planning for the Northern Territory; Review, reframe, renew initiative to deliver a better planning system to meet the needs of Territorians.

The submission was based on existing Heart Foundation intellectual property – Blueprint for and Active Australia, and addressed the key areas of physical inactivity, poor nutrition, food access and availability, built environments and active travel.


Influencing government policy and legislation

The Heart Foundation is committed to influencing policy to ensure that Queensland becomes a healthier and more active state through the provision of environments that support wellbeing.

In an election year, this means that we develop election policy proposals which we put forward to each political party in the lead up to an election to seek their support and response. Prior to the December 2017 State Election we distributed the 2017 Queensland Election Platform to call on the Queensland Government to commit to four actions to beat heart disease, the single leading cause of death in the state.

Every year we also develop budget proposals to present to the Queensland Government. We also make submissions to Queensland Government consultations and Parliamentary Inquiries on active living eg. review of Queensland’s planning laws, Cycling and road safety inquiries.

Within these submissions the Heart Foundation QLD recommends a number of key commitments to the built environment that can be achieved and supported through the Healthy Active by Design program:

  • Maximise opportunities for walking by creating safe, connected and direct routes with improved wayfinding and signage
  • Greater investment in active travel including infrastructure, fare discounting and  social marketing campaigns to create a positive culture around walking and active travel
  • Integrate walking with other transport modes to complete networks and establish new links
  • Foster partnerships with cities, regions, shires and councils and other community organisations for targeted investments across active travel infrastructure, specifically around busy centres and public transport interchanges
  • Introduce speed reduction law reforms in city centres and pedestrian hubs

Read the Heart Foundation QLD submission.

Advocating for a better regional plan - ShapingSEQ

The South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017 -  ShapingSEQ came into effect on 11 August 2017.

The Heart Foundation was a key stakeholder during the Queensland Government’s  15-month consultation program with the community, industry, local governments and state agencies., We provided expert input through regular stakeholder engagement activities and a formal submission.

The Heart Foundation is encouraged to see that ShapingSEQ sets a long term vision and provides the regional framework for growth management to achieve sustainable future growth. This planning framework reflects objectives that are in strong alignment with the Healthy Active by Design Program, such as:

  • Creating more liveable urban places and spaces for our communities
  • Identifying a long-term sustainable pattern of development
  • Promoting more diverse housing options - including options that address shifting expectations and changing demographics
  • Prioritising active and public transport, with emphasis on improving the reliability and frequency of the public transport network
  • Protecting the natural environment, while responding to the projected impacts of climate change
  • Promoting adaptable sub-tropical living that is accessible and attractive

Read the Heart Foundation QLD submission to ShapingSEQ.

Utilising experts to bring policy ideas alive

Creating Places Where People Love to Live, one step at a time

To bring policy alive and inspire Queenslanders about "Creating Places Where People Love to Live", the Heart Foundation hosted a panel discussion in November 2016. It was supported by the Queensland Government and in collaboration with the NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence (CRE) in Healthy, Liveable Communities and Queensland Walks.

Over 140 people attended to hear keynote speaker Professor James (Jim) Sallis, Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California. Prof Sallis is passionate about making our places better for people. He is a distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine at the University of California, San Diego and Director of Active Living Research. His research is published in the Lancet. Prof Sallis led a panel of experts in active living.

 This event and subsequent functions were an excellent opportunity to connect physical activity advocates with a mix of local and international experts who discussed why and how to create places where people love to live and be physically active.

Watch the panel discussion.

New South Wales

2015 State Election campaign

A State election is an opportunity to draw attention to key issues where we want the Government to make changes. Our advocacy during the 2015 NSW State election campaign asked the new Government to commit significant funding to active transport infrastructure and to regulate e-cigarettes, like tobacco cigarettes. In June 2015 the first amendments were passed to make the sale of e-cigarettes to children illegal and by June 2018 e-cigarettes were included in all legislated tobacco restrictions including a ban on their use in smoke-free areas.   After continued advocacy, the Government announced in the 2016-2017 Budget an $80 million Cycling Infrastructure Initiative to fund large cycling infrastructure projects. 

2018 Pre-Budget Submission    

25% of NSW school children are overweight or obese and only one in four gets sufficient physical activity each day. The most common way for children to get to and from school in NSW is now by car and this is rapidly increasing – up from 46% of primary school children in 2010 to 54% in 2015. To address this, the Heart Foundation NSW are advocating for a comprehensive Safe Active Travel to School Program, which would provide needed infrastructure upgrades to improve the walking and cycling environment in and around schools and would also educate parents and children on safe active travel. 

Regional results

Regionally, we have been involved in some exciting community campaigns to create healthier to built environments, including the Cessnock Healthier Oils program, the CycleSafe network in Newcastle as well as leading the charge for a street tree strategy in Tamworth.

Our submissions to, and participation in, the planning processes of the Greater Sydney Commission and the development of Regional Plans for NSW have contributed to the inclusion of healthy built environment principles in NSW regional Plans and the Greater Sydney Commission Region and District Plans. 

Ongoing education

We have participated in Active Living NSW’s 4 workshops across New South Wales. These workshops aim to empower local planners to integrate healthy planning principles within the planning framework, and explains what could be the benefits to the community. So far, we have presented Healthy Active by Design to over 80 planners, urban designers and policy makers. We will be presenting at the Planning Institute of Australia NSW state conference, and further promoting how planning has the potential to create the conditions for health. We are also members of the Committee for Sydney, an independent think tank providing thought leadership. The Heart Foundation is involved in healthy built environment advocacy, and sits on the transport and planning taskforces. We are also founding members of the NSW Healthy Planning Expert Working Group and have jointly advocated for legislative and policy changes that would see healthy planning objectives and actions integrated into the NSW Planning System.


Submission for City of Hobart’s Draft Transport Strategy

Heart Foundation submission on the City of Hobart Draft Transport Strategy, August 2018 included the call for a Hobart to be an Active Travel City

Read the submission