Meet Petter Åkerblom, Program Committee Chair 2019
Dr. Petter Åkerblom is a landscape architect, specialized in children’s and young persons’ urban outdoor environments, and senior lecturer at the Department of Urban and Rural Development; Division of Landscape Architecture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, SLU.
For many years, Petter Åkerblom was also the coordinator for the program on outdoor urban space for young people at Movium, a think-tank at SLU with the mission to drive idea- and knowledge generation for the development of sustainable cities. In October 2018, Dr Petter Åkerblom was appointed chair for Uppsala Health Summit’s Program committee 2019, to help develop the theme Healthy Urban Childhoods.
Children´s health needs are the same everywhere in the world, but access to sustainable environments for a healthy upbringing varies considerably between different settings. According to you, which are the biggest challenges for children to develop and thrive, physically and mentally?
- We need urban environments that are safe, challenging and accessible for children and young persons. Environments where they can move around independently, on their own terms. In many parts of the world, this is a major challenge when developing our cities, especially in already developed urban environments, or where competition for land is high. Densification of urban areas is a major planning trend today, and traffic is getting heavier. A consequence is that many children cannot move freely on their own, or are not allowed to do so.
What made you accept the invitation to take on the role to chair Uppsala Health Summit’s program committee 2019?
- It was actually fairly straightforward. My years as coordinator at the think-tank Movium, have given me insight into the challenges of gaining support for the development of child-friendly cities, and the negative health impacts that can result. As researcher, I follow the area closely, particularly the effects of children’s outdoor activities and play for their learning, their health and their well-being.
- From my international networks, I know that the issue of a healthy urban childhood and adolescence is a widespread challenge. Uppsala Health Summit is a brilliant opportunity to contribute to both greater clarity on the issues and practical options for action.
Looking ahead to the Summit 8 – 9 October 2019, which possible outcomes of the dialogues in the workshops and in plenum would be on top on an imaginary wish list if you had one?
- I hope we can develop recommendations to all levels of society, that guidelines for urban planning should be based on the children's perspective. In addition, I hope we can develop strategies that will strengthen children's and young people's ability to influence urban development, considering the city as an environment to live and thrive in, and including both children’s and adults’ needs.
Who do you hope will participate in the dialogue at Uppsala Health Summit, Healthy Urban Childhoods?
- We will do our utmost to gather experienced key persons from different sectors, who will bring a wide range of valuable insights to the workshop dialogues. We aim for a broad mix of competencies: Civil servants, researchers, practitioners and other experts. We hope delegates will arrive to the summit loaded with curiosity, and return home confident and eager to act.
Are there interesting examples from urban planning that you would recommend those who are invited to the Summit to have a look at beforehand, as an inspiration to the discussions at the meeting?
- Why not take a look at a successful example of urban planning from Berlin? Here, different administrations have joined forces over the past 20 years or so to convert about 2,000 of Berlin's 4,000 schoolyards into green oases for play, learning and contact with nature.