Healthy Built Environment

Improving health by improving the environments in which we live

What is the built environment?

The 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.

Why link community design, planning and health?

How we design our communities is vitally important to our health and well-being. Planning decisions such as zoning, transportation systems and community design significantly influence health. Consider, for instance, the distances people must travel to work, the convenience of buying healthy foods, or the safety of a park: these factors can promote good nutrition, physical activity and increase leisure time. The outcome can be better mental and physical health.

How does Island Health influence the built environment?

Our Healthy Built Environment program works to promote health by collaborating with municipal planners, community organizations and other stakeholders. More specifically, Environmental Health is expanding on their traditional regulatory roles to include the broader public health perspective, such as:

  • Emphasize neighbourhood design where people can easily connect with each other and a variety of day-to-day services.
  • Promote safe and accessible transportation systems that incorporate a diversity of transportation modes and place priority on physically active transportation.
  • Advocate for a built environment where natural environments are protected and natural elements are incorporated.
  • Encourage a built environment that includes access to and availability of healthy and safe food.
  • Support for affordable, accessible, and good quality housing for all that is free of hazards and enables people to engage in activities of daily living.