Health, as a trend, is a growing business. While communities may not need be concerned whether their plans and ordinances are gluten-free (or trendy!), it is wise to understand the shifting landscape of health, it’s relationship to the built environment and which trends should be included in your next plan or project.
The built environment has tremendous impacts on health—the popular phrase, supported by extensive research, is that, “your ZIP code matters more than your genetic code.” Communities are increasingly looking to their policy documents and regulations as a way to achieve overall health for their residents. The examples are inspiring and applicable to communities of all sizes. It simply involves using a health “lens” on existing plans, regulations, and processes rather than creating something new and cumbersome.
In the spring of 2017, the major professional associations affecting the built environment (the American Institute of Architects, American Planning Association, American Public Health Association, American Society of Civil Engineers, American Society of Landscape Architects, National Recreation and Park Association, U.S. Green Building Council, and Urban Land Institute) issued a Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities to their collective membership (nearly a half million professionals) to prioritize the integration of health into their work. These organizations have many resources to support the call to action with topics such as Health in All Policies, Health Impact Assessments, and measuring the impact of healthy communities. Applying a health lens to planning for the built environment is an idea whose time has come and can help a community achieve larger goals.