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Built Environment

Healthy Communities by Design

What is the built environment?

two bikes parked at public bike racks on a city sidewalkThe built environment includes spaces and places created or modified by people. It is structured by urban design, economics and land use rules. It includes buildings, venues for physical activity and the transportation system.

The built environment can either encourage or serve as a barrier to a healthy lifestyle. For example, neighborhoods perceived as unsafe provide a barrier to physical activity which may result in a higher likelihood of being overweight. On the other hand, higher neighborhood walkability encourages physical activity and is preventive of being overweight.

Why is considering the built environment important?

The built environment affects:

  • Active transportation, physical activity levels and recreation
  • Public transit
  • Accessibility of resources
  • Affordable housing
  • Access to food/healthy diet
  • Water and air quality
  • Noise
  • Traffic safety and pedestrian/bicyclist safety
  • Exposure to environmental hazards 

These in turn impact our health, including: obesity, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer, respiratory illness, mental health, stress, injuries and well-being. 



See also