The phrase "built environment" refers to the human-made or modified physical surroundings in which people live, work, and play. These places and spaces include our homes, communities, schools, workplaces, parks/recreational areas, business areas, and transportation systems, and vary in size from large-scale urban areas to smaller rural developments.
How communities are planned and built, and the services and resources provided within them, directly impacts people's physical, mental, and social health. These impacts are reflected in levels of social cohesion, mental and physical fitness, chronic disease, obesity, and injury.
How communities are planned and built, and the services and resources provided within them, directly impacts people's physical, mental, and social health. For example, making active transportation convenient and safe has been shown to increase physical activity, walking and cycling, which in turn are linked to decreased unintentional injuries and obesity as well as improved mental health and social connectivity.
PPH has reviewed the evidence from literature and consulted experts and stakeholders to summarize what is known about the research on health and the built environment. The Healthy Built Environment (HBE) Linkages Toolkit is a groundbreaking evidence-based and expert-informed resource that links planning principles to health outcomes and identifies the behavioural impacts (e.g., walking and transit use) and environmental impacts (e.g., noise and traffic safety) that contribute to those health outcomes.
Community planners and design professionals, public health practitioners and local government decision-makers share a responsibility to promote active living and to shape healthier built environments in order to prevent illness and injury and promote health and well-being. Stakeholders can play that role by ensuring that best practices planning policies and practices are undertaken related to the five physical features of the built environment: neighbourhood design, housing, transportation networks, natural environments and food systems.
A key to success for healthier built environments is developing a shared understanding of HBE's importance and the role everyone has to play. For example, PPH developed a resource to introduce health professionals to planning terms and processes, and to highlight opportunities for their professional involvement in land-use planning. Health 201 is a step-by-step guide that aims to assist planners, design professionals and local government decision-makers to take actions twoards creating healthier built environments. For audiences new to HBE issues, the Foundations for a Healthier Built Environment summary report is an introductory educational resource.