Apr 19, 2016
BY: and
THEME: Wellness

Improving Health Through Mobility Infrastructure Choices

Over the last few years, the planning, healthcare, and public health professions have all seen movement toward “healthy places” as a key component for keeping people and populations healthy. While this idea is not new, harkening back to the garden city proposals of the 19th century and more recently the CDC’s Healthy Places Initiative, the passage of the Affordable Care Act and its emphasis on preventative care has put pressure on planners and health care providers alike to actively plan for communities that accommodate and support healthy behaviors. Rapidly rising rates of obesity, diabetes, and other preventable chronic diseases give this movement even more urgency. Through our urban design work (including Health District Planning) we’ve been able to really dig into the practical issues of what makes a place healthy.

Appropriate infrastructure for mobility and transportation is crucial in creating these kinds of health-supportive environments[1]. The right network of streets and blocks, layered with robust systems for cyclists, pedestrians, and public transportation, can encourage more walking and biking as part of everyday routines. Investment in mobility infrastructure and a shift away from reliance on private vehicles can have other potential co-benefits, including a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions[2], increased social cohesion, and reduced healthcare costs over time.

Over the last few months, Perkins+Will, via AREA Research, has been collaborating with the BRE (Building Research Establishment) and Arup to create a Design Protocol as part of Arup’s Global Research Challenge. The goal is to help planners, public officials, elected officials and other decision makers consider health data and designing for health when planning for mobility infrastructure. The accompanying video introduces the project as well as some of its key goals and assumptions.

The full report is available here. 

[1] Cohen JM, Boniface S, Watkins S. Health implications of transport planning, development and operations. Journal of Transport & Health. 2014 Mar;1(1):63–72.

[2] Mindell JS, Cohen JM, Watkins S, Tyler N. Synergies between low-carbon and healthy transport policies. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Transport. 2011 Aug 1;164(3):127–39.

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