Location, Location, Location: The Impact of the Built Environment on our Health

We aught to plan the ideal of our city with an eye to four considerations. The first, as being the most indispensable, is health.  Aristotle Politics (ca. 350 B.C.)

Did you know that…

  • Older adults who walk regularly report better physical and mental health and life satisfaction but 65% don’t do it because destinations are too far apart and walking infrastructure is poor.
  • For each grocery store within 1 km of home, we are 11% less likely to be overweight because of potential of walking and availability of healthy food options.
  • Students with fast food outlets within a half mile of their school consume fewer servings of fruits and vegetables, more servings of soda and are more likely to be an unhealthy weight than youths whose schools are not near fast food restaurants.1

Each of the three points above illustrate that where we are – where we live, learn, work, and play –  matters very much to our health.

Daily physical activity, such as walking to the grocery store or cycling to work – offers significant health benefits. Yet the design of our streets, workplaces, and communities often discourages such healthy activity. Evidence from around the globe now shows us that critical health concerns such as inactivity and unhealthy weights arise from human interactions with the built environment. Unfortunately, while these interactions are widely acknowledged, change has been slow. Too often community design decisions do not consider the implications for public health. 1

Walk 21 – Vancouver is an international conference being held on October 3-5 will look at walking and walkable environments from a wide variety of perspectives. The conference’s metropolitan focus involves municipalities in the region, health authoritiesTranslinkthe University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, as well as the regional governmentMetro Vancouver has teamed together to create an innovative conference focusing on the best practices for urban design, transportation mobility, and health promotion to provide the best places to walk to and through. www.walk21.com/vancouver

Claire Gram
Population Health Policy Consultant
Vancouver Coastal  Health
August 2011

 

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