Networks and healthy cities: A proposal for spreading good practices based on a case-study
Geographical Review Early View
Paz Benito del Pozo, Néstor Serrano, Pilar Marques-Sanchez
American Geographical Society: What is the main purpose of your study?
Paz Benito del Pozo: Public Health is using the “healthy cities” approach to improve health promotion in urban areas and to create more sustainable welfare contexts. These cities can influence the social behaviors of individuals, from which it ensues that there can be an impact on the healthy behavior patterns of groups. An example of collective action is to be found in the city of Vitoria-Gasteiz in Spain, considered as a “healthy city”. This relates to the use of bicycles by doctors and nurses in their work as a means of transport for providing home care. To spread the use of bicycles among workers, and even among other territories, it was decided to use the theoretical framework of social networks. So the objectives are firstly to justify the use of bicycles at work as a strategy for a “healthy city” and secondly to propose a conceptual framework for analyzing this network of professionals and its capacity to spread this action to other territories.
American Geographical Society: What are the practical, day to day implications of your study?
Paz Benito del Pozo: 1- The use of bicycle is an action that is included in the “healthy cities” approach.
2- The use of bicycle, considered a physical activity, helps to reduce many of the medical diseases found in the contemporary society and are directly linked to urban living. Also, it has got other benefits related to air quality, noise pollution and household economics.
3-The case of Vitoria-Gasteiz could be spread to other territories and groups of people, so that health care professionals could be leaders to promote a healthy habit, in this case the use of the bicycle.
American Geographical Society: How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Paz Benito del Pozo: This study is very innovative because it is the first time social networks are applied in the “healthy cities” approach to try to improve health population promoting a collective action. This could be a new healthy strategy from those responsible for public policy.
American Geographical Society: What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
Paz Benito del Pozo: 1. Vitoria-Gazteiz city, as a “healthy city”, has got an innovative action to promote health. This is the use of bicycle by health care professionals to provide home care.
2. This innovative action could be spread to other territories using social networks approach so that it could have an impact on the urban planning of the cities.
3. To enhance the “healthy cities” concept through the use of means of transport that are efficient, healthy, and beneficial for the environment would aid in improving individual and collective health.
American Geographical Society: What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
Paz Benito del Pozo: Social Networks are suitable contexts for transmitting habits. Considering the use of bicycle at work as an innovation, in view of the theoretical concepts in the views about the “diffusion of innovations” stated by Rogers, there are two models based on contacts within networks:
•”Threshold model”: an individual will take on a behavior, depending on the number of people in the social network with this same behavior.
•“Opinion leaders”: the greatest influence to adopt an innovation is the opinion of a small number of people they trust.
American Geographical Society: How does your research help us think about Geography?
Paz Benito del Pozo: The design of a city is essential to undertake healthy habits by the population. In this sense, it will be possible to increase the number of people that use the bicycle in the city, if this one facilitates its use.
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