Built Environment

Built Environment and Human Health

  • The built environment means the buildings, transportation systems, energy systems, open space, and agricultural lands that make up and support our communities.
  • Street design, bike lanes and sidewalks; housing types and neighbourhood design; patterns of development; the provision of trees, parks, green space and recreational facilities; and the location of jobs, schools and services are all important components of the built environment.
  • The built environment can have a significant impact on human health because it can influence people's levels of physical activity; the safety of travel; the quality of outdoor air; access to jobs and services; and opportunities for social interaction and recreation.
  • Toronto Public Health report Healthy Toronto by Design (PDF)
    This describes how human health is affected by a broad suite of factors including: income, education, employment, food security, quality of housing, transportation services, and access to health services.
  • People who live on low incomes have a greater chance of developing a chronic disease or being injured. They are also more likely to live in neighbourhoods with greater exposure to traffic, and less access to healthy foods, parks, trails, green space, and good transit service; factors which increase their risk of illness and injury.

Built Environment and Transportation

Building a Healthy Toronto

  • Current Research and Policy Initiatives for a Healthy Built Environment
    Staff report in the Healthy Toronto By Design project which provides an overview of the current work being conducted by Toronto Public Health.
  • The City is conducting a five-year review of the Official Plan (OP). The OP provides guidance for land-use planning decisions that influence how growth in Toronto will take place between now and 2031. In March 2012, TPH and City Planning co-hosted a roundtable, Planning a Healthier Toronto to review the OP using a health and health equity lens. A staff report to the Board of Health identifies several opportunities for enhancing health and equity considerations in the OP.
  • Toward Healthier Apartment Neighbourhoods (PDF) indentifies strategies that could be used to make apartment neighbourhoods healthier for their residents; strategies that could bring income opportunities, commercial goods and services into the neighbourhoods; strategies that could foster physical activity, neighbourhood safety, social interaction, and improved health for all. It also identifies the strategies that are currently impeded or limited by zoning by-laws that were developed half a century ago.
  • Poverty by Postal Code 2: Vertical Poverty (PDF)
    This United Way Toronto report describes how high rise buildings in the City house nearly one half of Toronto's low income population. Many of these buildings are in a state of poor repair, which can expose residents to unhealthy situations such as mouldy walls. In addition, many are not supported by community rooms or playgrounds which provide opportunities for social interaction or physical activity. Lastly, many are situated in neighbourhoods that do not include shops, services and stores which sell fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Creating Healthy Built Environments: Highlights of Best Practices in Toronto (PDF)
    Examples of innovative practices and policies across city government in Toronto that promote healthy built environments.
  • As discussed in the report, Improving Health and Health Equity through the Toronto Parks Plan (PDF) parks and trails can play an important role to increase the health and well-being of those who live on low incomes by increasing social interaction, physical activity, and time in the natural environment.

Forthcoming Reports and Resources:

  • Active City Design Principles - TPH is currently collaborating with City Planning, Transportation Services and Tower Renewal Office on a project to develop active city design principles for the City. These principles, and the health rationale that support them, would be used to assess and improve existing City policies which guide and influence the design of buildings, neighbourhoods, and public spaces in the City.

Coalition Linking Action and Science for Prevention (CLASP)

  • CLASP is a Coalition formed under the Cancer Partnership Against Cancer.
  • Toronto Public Health, as an active partner in CLASP, has coordinated several research projects directed at the built environment with funding provided by CLASP and the Heart and Stroke Foundation.
  • The CLASP funded City and Regional Residential Preference Survey Results for Toronto and Vancouver: A CLASP Final Report (PDF) examines the preferences of residents towards walkable and transit-supportive neighbourhoods and specific features of those neighbourhoods.
  • As part of the CLASP project, A Health and Environment-Enhanced Land Use Planning Tool (PDF) was developed. This computer model estimates how neighbourhood design can impact health-related outcomes such as physical activity levels, body weight and greenhouse gas emissions. It can be used to compare different options and help policy and decision-makers decide on a preferred design. The report presents the results of two pilot studies, one in Toronto and the other in the Greater Vancouver Area. The full report on findings (PDF) is also available.

Last updated September 2013