Urban Neighbourhoods and Wellbeing


The design of neighbourhood streets and public spaces can foster (or constrain) social interaction, physical activity and a sense of place.  This research programme investigates the physical, social and affective characteristics of the street and neighbourhood environments that promote health and wellbeing. Children, disabled young people as well as adults (including older adults) have all been engaged in various studies using a range of participatory, ethnographic and quantitative methods ( eg GPS, surveys, accelerometery).  The research programme is led by Professor Karen Witten.

Participatory design with children

It is the people who live in them – including our children – and great public spaces, which make a city.  Children have the competence and imagination to enhance the design of urban public spaces.
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Rights to the city

As families with children move into inner-city neighbourhoods children’s everyday use of city streets brings them in contact with people who may be homeless or have mental illness or addictions – encounters they can find unsettling.  The hyperdiversity of our cities raises questions about how to ensure all citizens have a right to the city.
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Kids in the city

If parents experience neighbourhoods as socially cohesive and connected their children are more likely to move and play independently in local streets. Parental concerns differ by ethnic group. For NZ European, Maori, Samoan and other Pacific parents, ‘people danger’ was the most common reason given for not letting their children go out alone, whereas for Asian and Indian parents, ‘traffic danger’ was the most common concern.
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More information on our Urban Neigbourhoods and Health research here