Planning and community design can affect a community’s
health in a variety of ways including influencing physical
activity, food and nutrition, air quality, traffic safety, and
access to parks and open space.
Along with a healthy diet, physical activity can help protect
individuals against many chronic diseases. People can incorporate
daily activity into their lives by walking and bicycling to
school, work or public transit.
Coupled with declining rates of physical activity, obstacles to
accessing healthy and nutritious food have contributed to rising
levels of chronic disease, overweight and obesity. Consumption of
foods high in fat and calories has soared while access to quality
fresh fruits and vegetables has declined.
Air pollution is especially harmful to the elderly and the very
young, as well as those who exercise outdoors, have respiratory
conditions and spend more time breathing polluted air. This
includes people living close to freeways and ports, workers
exposed to air pollution at their jobs and those living in homes
with compromised indoor air quality.
Policies and design guidelines that facilitate bike and foot
travel can save lives and reduce injuries. More than 50 percent
of all fatal vehicle crashes occur on wide, high-volume,
high-speed arterials. Increasing crosswalk visibility,
narrowing arterials, adding shade trees and landscaping, slowing
traffic and adding other “traffic-calming” features makes walking
safer — a key determinant in people’s activity levels.
Studies show that providing adequate access to safe parks
increases physical activity. Residents living close to parks or
with access to more parks are more likely to use them and be