The Built Environment Can Make Healthy Choices the Easy Choices
It is becoming widely recognized that the way we design our neighbourhoods can play a significant role in encouraging community members to make healthier choices, and decrease the risk of chronic illness. The built environment--that is, the arrangement of buildings, parks, schools, roads and other infrastructure encountered in daily life--influences factors that can promote good nutrition, community cohesion, air and water quality, and daily physical activity. These Include travel distance to work, school or services; the convenience of buying healthy foods; the pleasantness of neighbourhood trails; and the safety of local parks (PHSA, 2009
Chronic Disease, Physical Inactivity & Other Risk Factors Are On the Rise
Chronic diseases have become Canada's greatest health threat. Cancer, for example, is the leading cause of premature death in Canada. Heart disease is the number one killer in the country. It is also the most costly disease, putting the greatest burden on our national health care system (Health Canada
, 2008). According to the BC Provincial Health Services Authority
, "individuals with multiple, complex health problems use a significant share of all health care resources. People with chronic conditions represent about 34% of the BC population, but they make up approximately 67% of health care costs."
The Integration of Health and Land Use Planning Can Help Us Meet the Chronic Disease Challenge
Through the integration of a health lens into land use planning policies and practices, we can create healthy built environments, or communities where all residents can:
-- More easily connect with others in their neighbourhood,
-- Walk and wheel safely,
-- Enjoy the outdoors close to home,
-- Find housing options for different life stages,
-- Breathe clean air,
-- Drink high-quality water,
-- Reduce their risk of injury, and
-- Make healthy eating choices.
Many of the planning and land use practices that promote healthy living also lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, local economic development, lower infrastructure costs, and more. The benefits of healthy built environments are far reaching and yield positive impacts that go beyond health.
Resources - Smart Growth BC
Resources - Other Organizations