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Community Design

The way a community is designed can impact health and well-being in several ways including physical, mental, social and economic.

Community Design
“The health of a community is not just about the health of the people but about the healthfulness of their environmental, social and economic conditions and of the community, social and political processes that lead to the shaping of those conditions.” Healthy Communities Practice Guide (2014) 1

Chronic Diseases and Conditions

Community design can play a key role in combating the risk factors for chronic diseases and conditions such as: 2 3

  • coronary heart disease
  • non-insulin dependent diabetes (Type II)
  • overweight and obesity
  • high blood pressure and stroke
  • cancers
  • respiratory ailments
  • osteoporosis
  • stress and depression

‘Healthy’ Community Design

Healthy community design involves the planning and design of communities that make it easier for people of all ages and abilities to live healthy, active and safe lifestyles. One method is to use the 8 80 Cities approach where cities are designed for both an 8 year old and an 80 year old. By approaching community design in this way it is possible to create environments that are healthy for everyone.4

Healthy community design links the traditional concepts of planning
such as:


with health themes such as:

Healthy Communities

Healthy community design focuses on both the built environment (human-made features such as buildings, roads, parks, etc.) and the natural environment (natural features such as green spaces, trees, rivers, etc.).5 The strategies used will vary depending on whether it is an urban or a rural community.6 7

The use of healthy community design leads to places that:

  • are safe
  • contribute to a high quality of life
  • provide a strong sense of belonging & identity, and
  • offer access to a wide range of health-promoting options
  • include health-supporting infrastructure options
  • provide opportunities for all residents 8

Learn about Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places (2013), Urban Land Institute (PDF)

For further information, please visit:


Date of creation: November 23, 2016
Last modified on: May 13, 2022


1Canadian Institute of Planners. (2014). Healthy Communities Practice Guide. Retrieved from
2Toronto Public Health. (2011). Healthy Toronto by Design. Retrieved from
3Urban Land Institute. (2015). Building Healthy Places Toolkit: Strategies for Enhancing Health in the Built Environment. Retrieved from
4880 Cities. (2017). Retrieved from
5Public Health Agency of Canada. (2014). Supportive Environments for Physical Activity: how the Built Environment Affects Our Health. Retrieved from
6BC Centre for Disease Control. (2018). Healthy Built Environment Linkages: A Toolkit for Design: making the links between design, planning and health, Version 2.0 Retrieved from
7Healthy Rural Communities Locally Driven Collaborative Team. (2015). Healthy Rural Communities Took Kit: A Guide for Rural Municipalities. Retrieved from