Ten Principles for Building Healthy Places

This is a publication about healthy places. Physical design affects human behavior at all scales—buildings, neighborhoods, communities, and regions. The places in which we live, work, and play can affect both our mental and physical well-being. Today, communities across the United States are facing obesity and chronic disease rates of epic proportions. Our built environment offers both opportunities for and barriers to improving public health and increasing active living. Communities designed in a way that supports physical activity—wide sidewalks, safe bike lanes, attractive stairways, accessible recreation areas—encourage residents to make healthy choices and live healthy lives. Healthy places in turn create economic value by attracting both younger and older workers and appealing to a skilled workforce and innovative companies.

One challenge to building healthy places is the lack of a common language between the medical and land use community. To that end, the Urban Land Institute convened a group of interdisciplinary experts at an August 5–6, 2013, workshop as part of its Building Healthy Places Initiative. The team—purposely drawn from a variety of fields and perspectives, including health care, architecture, planning, development, finance, academia, and research—was asked to develop ten principles for building healthy communities around the globe. Team members devoted two days of intensive study and collaboration, ultimately consolidating and refining their conclusions as the ten principles presented in this booklet.

In spring 2013, the Colorado Health Foundation commissioned three ULI Advisory Services panels with a specific focus on evaluating three communities with very different land use typologies. The three panels were held in Arvada (suburban), Lamar (rural), and Westwood in Denver (urban), thereby allowing ULI to compare and contrast local actions based on these different land use forms. The Colorado Health Foundation has been an excellent partner in exploring this important subject.


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