Understanding costs to society of unhealthy urban development with HAUS

Producing evidence of health impacts

TRUUD is developing an economic valuation model to help planners, investors and developers understand the health impacts of urban development plans.

We know the environment around us can have a profound effect on health and quality of life, but it can be hard to anticipate the magnitude of this for a specific place, or to compare lots of different health impacts across all the alternative options.

The Health Appraisal of Urban Systems Model (HAUS) helps to quantify and value the health impacts of different characteristics of the urban environment. These include conditions indoors as well as those around our homes, such as natural environment (including air pollution and green space), transport, socio-economic factors (such as crime or deprivation), climate change and community infrastructure (such as public transport and access to healthy food).

The model estimates the societal value of changes to health that result from changes to the urban environment. It answers the question:

“If a change is made to an area where people live, what will be the impact on health and how can we value this?”

Dr Eleanor Eaton, University of Bath explains HAUS

How it works

HAUS is driven by changes in the environment which have been shown to have a measurable impact on health.

We take data from our review of published medical studies to produce a bank of impacts, covering a wide range of factors from air pollution to opportunities for walking. We use these to forecast what might happen if one or more of these factors are changed.
The impact of disease is felt by individuals, our NHS and social care providers, through our ability to care for others, through lost work, lost wellbeing and lost life years. HAUS provides a bank of over 70 unit costs of health, taken from published economic valuation studies and our own research into the costs of ill health.

HAUS is a comparative risk assessment model, which means that it compares levels of risk to health between a baseline and at least one other scenario. It includes evidence on demographics and risk of disease in the modelling, and calculate changes to health in terms of attributable cases of illness and premature life years lost. We then apply the financial impact of these changes into the potential cost to society.

For more information read our briefing note Valuing the ‘external’ social costs of unhealthy urban development (December 2023).


How has HAUS been used so far?

HAUS has informed our spatial planning and urban transport interventions through work with embedded researchers in Bristol and Manchester.

In Bristol local government officers were able to consider land-use trade offs for a large scale regeneration plan and in Manchester HAUS has brought another layer of data into the Streets for All design checklist to help the city’s ambitions for healthier place making. Outside these local applications, we are working with real estate investors to explore how health data could be used to inform their plans for sustainable urban schemes. HAUS is also being explored in our national government intervention for its potential to help improve how we consider health in policy appraisal and strategic planning.

HAUS data and evidence

The following health data was sourced from HAUS and other sources to inform series of films illustrating what it is like to live in an unhealthy place.

overcrowded bedroom


Lack of green space / place to play

Damp and mould

road at night with bus stop and queued traffic

Traffic noise

busy road on a wet day

Air quality

  • Air pollution affects people of every age, increasing risk of respiratory disease, cancers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Air pollution in the UK causes between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year.
  • The value to society of preventing all early deaths related to air pollution in the UK could be £70-90 billion per year.

Get in touch

The HAUS model was designed and built by the team at the Department of Economics at the University of Bath. Contact the lead author, Dr Eleanor Eaton.