Are the places where we live, work, learn and play preventing us from making healthy choices?
People’s choices are influenced and impacted by the built environment they live, work, learn and play in, which in turn affects their health. The built environment is the sum of the human-made surroundings and natural environments in a community; including buildings and spaces (homes, schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, parks, trails, industrial/commercial areas, etc), the products they contain, and the infrastructure (transportation, energy and agricultural systems) that links and supports them.
A growing body of literature has linked the built environment to many public health concerns including; physical inactivity, obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and other respiratory diseases, mental health, injuries and social/health inequities. However; the literature also shows that designing healthier built environments can have positive preventive impacts on health by making the healthy, active choice the safe and easy choice!
Built environments that encourage healthy behaviours not only have major health benefits, but also numerous other social, environmental, personal and economic benefits across multiple sectors. Many of the co-benefits of designing healthier built environments positively impact other complex problems facing communities and society such as, climate change, economic and financial issues, air and water quality issues as well as accessibility.