The Regional Municipality Of York


Healthy Built Environment

What is the built environment?

The built environment is our physical or human-made surroundings that provide the backdrop of our daily lives. This ranges from buildings, parks, businesses and schools to road and transportation systems and other infrastructure that we come across living and working on a day-to-day basis. Check out the My Community, My Health videos produced by Ottawa Public Health to learn more about the connection between health and the built environment and how residents can participate in building healthier communities.

My Community, My Health - Built Environment video from the City of Ottawa, video 1 of 2
My Community, My Health - Built Environment video from the City of Ottawa, video 2 of 2

The major causes of illness and death in society have changed from infectious diseases such as those transmitted by contaminated water, to chronic diseases associated with inactivity, unhealthy diets and traffic related air pollution. The way our communities are designed impacts human health and well-being. A healthy community is designed to provide a range of housing and employment options and maximize opportunities to walk and bike to everyday destinations such as grocery stores, local services, and schools which increases physical activity and reduces the risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, this reduces the number of car trips and lowers emissions, which contributes to cleaner air in our communities.

How does the built environment affect your health?

A healthy built environment:

  • Supports a variety of interconnected and mixed land uses (residential, employment, recreation and retail)
  • Supports protection of the natural environment (land, air and water quality)
  • Reduces exposure to air pollution and environmental contaminants People who live in walkable neighbourhoods are twice as likely to achieve recommended daily levels of physical activity
  • Supports climate resilient communities
  • Prevents injuries and promotes safety and security
  • Builds opportunities for physical activity and recreation into our daily lives
  • Increases access to healthy local food choices
  • Supports healthy lives and opportunities to thrive regardless of age, gender, income level, ethnicity or any other social or economic reason
  • Provides a variety of transportation options including transit, along with connected and safe walking/cycling/wheeling routes
    Walkable, bikeable, transit-oriented communities are associated with healthier populations that have more physical activity, lower body weight, lower rates of traffic injuries, less air population and improved mobility for non-drivers
  • Promotes low carbon and green building design
    Access to green space improves physical health, mental health and overall well being. Street trees reduce air-borne pollutants, including ozone, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter
  • Provides measures to reduce urban heat islands (urban areas that are warmer than surrounding rural areas) and exposure to heat and UV rays
  • Facilitates healthy aging in the community
  • Provides populations of all ages and abilities an opportunity to influence the design of their communities
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What is York Region doing to create a healthier built environment?

York Region Public Health is addressing issues and impacts related to the built environment including air quality, climate change, water quality, access to healthy foods, obesity, physical activity, traffic related injuries, falls and general well-being across all ages and stages.

Our role includes:

  • Monitoring, measuring and providing relevant population health surveillance data
  • Increasing awareness of the built environment’s impact on health to support healthy community planning
  • Facilitating partnerships and collaboration among a range of government and other decision makers
  • Engaging communities and mobilizing groups to participate in the development of healthy built environments
The Regional Municipality of York en-US

Built Environment and Health Action Plan

In response to the strong linkages between planning, design and human health, York Region Public Health has developed a Built Environment and Health Action Plan (Action Plan Primer, 2017). The Action Plan aims to support the development of community, transportation, and land-use planning policies and practices to create a healthier York Region.

In addition to reviewing plans, policies and legislation, York Region Public Health supports many initiatives that promote a healthy built environment including:

The Regional Municipality of York en-US

How to get involved

  • Learn about the York Region Official Plan
  • Learn more about your municipality’s official plan and how it affects your community
  • Connect with your local municipality for public consultation opportunities
  • Participate on a municipal or community committee
  • Speak with your neighbours about community issues. Explore solutions together
  • Spread your knowledge on the built environment or refer others to appropriate resources
  • Get to know your community. Take transit, walk, carpool, wheel or cycle more often and use motor vehicles less
  • Eat local, healthy food. Buy fresh food at your farmer’s market
  • Reduce your carbon footprint by conserving energy at home and on the road


Built Environment and Health Action Plan Primer

Building Healthy Communities Factsheets

External Resources

physical surroundings,man-made,human-made,community,land use,planning The Regional Municipality of York en-US Photo of people on an accessible boardwalk along a green space Healthy Built Environment The built environment is the physical environment where we live, work and play. Find out how the built environment affects your health.

Contact Us

  • Active Healthy Communities

  • Access York

  • 1-877-464-9675

  • Accessibility

    Accessible formats or communication supports are available upon request

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