The Creating Healthy Places Guidebook: A guide of best practices for making communities healthier

Updated: May 2

University of Colorado Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning released the ‘Creating Healthy Places Guidebook’, which is the result of three years of research and development best practices to make communities healthier. In this guide, the main purpose is to propose new models for the integration of health into the design and built environment in the educational and professional field. “The Guidebook incorporates findings and outcomes from studios and research that began in 2016 under a generous grant from the Colorado Health Foundation”.

“This Guidebook intends to serve as a resource and reference for a diverse set of professionals and organizations. From public health professionals to elected officials, any individual who is seeking to shape the built environment in ways that support and promote health and healthy living can utilize this document”.

The book includes 7 chapters on which it can be found many different best practices on different topics: Community Engagement, Environment, Water, Food, Open Spaces and Streetscapes, Buildings, and Mobility. “Each practice includes a brief overview, followed by a more detailed description, information on applications relating to health and design, and implementation guidance. Additionally, there are case studies and sidebars with information on other topics and tools related to health and design. Topics included in the Guidebook can be further explored through the Collaborative’s website and evaluation tools”.

Let’s make a quick review of the seven chapters:

  1. Community Engagement and Health

A central component to health related plans or programs is community engagement. In this chapter the guidebook specifies that ”working with individuals, neighborhood coalitions, community leaders, and other entities” needs to be a central point at all stages (from research gathering to design and implementation.

“It includes not only education and information-sharing, but also active public participation. Authentic engagement requires honest and ongoing interactions, and the involvement of as many community members as possible. Public engagement can result in positive health outcomes, from reduced rates of illness to increased physical activity. In a larger sense, it can address issues of social equity and economic growth”.

  1. Environment

Environmental factors play a very important role in human health. This chapter seeks to show why designers, planners, health professionals and decision makers need to take environmental conditions into account in projects that seek to improve health and well-being of the community and individuals.

“Initiatives should seek to protect and restore ecosystems, and they should strive to incorporate natural elements into urban contexts. Features in the built environment that can produce positive outcomes include plants and trees, permeable surfaces, and reflective materials. Improvements to the environment can help mitigate ailments such as asthma, cancer, high blood pressures, strokes, hearing loss, and other health conditions.”

  1. Water

To understand how to properly manage this valuable resource of water is key to improving health for communities. This chapter looks to expose what are the different challenges presented when it comes to water supplies.

“Among the challenges that need to be adare a lack of collaboration among stakeholders, stormwater problems brought on by urbanization, and depleted water supplies—all of which impact the health of communities. While planners and designers seek to address these issues, they are considering other aspects concerning water and health. Specifically, they are devising strategies to boost people’s water consumption, as inadequate hydration can cause major health problems”.

  1. Food

This chapter focuses on a recent trend that has appeared in recent years, which is how professionals have focused increasingly on the intersection of food systems and the built environment.

“There are many reasons for this shift, including a recognition that food systems represent a significant portion of land and a community’s economy. Moreover, access to healthy food plays a critical role in improving public health, as it can help prevent obesity, high-blood pressure, and diabetes, among other illnesses. Removing barriers to healthy food can go a long way toward benefiting both individuals and entire communities”.

  1. Home and buildings

This chapter tries to show how design and construction has a big impact on physical and mental health.

“There are numerous strategies that architects, designers, and planners can use to encourage and support healthy living. One must first look at the community as a whole and ensure there is a mix of land uses, which can help foster walkability and accessibility. When it comes to buildings, focus should be placed on elements such as stairs and gathering areas. Sustainability should also be a guiding principle. Conserving water, reducing energy usage, and enhancing indoor air quality are among the measures that can be incorporated to facilitate positive health outcomes for both people and the environment”.

  1. Public places and streetscapes

This chapter shows the importance of public places for human development. The public realm has a great influence on a person’s health and well-being. Since humans are social creatures, it is required for them to have places for gathering, exchanging and belonging.

“Moving from place to place should feel comfortable and safe. When possible, walking should be enabled and encouraged. Stepping out of the car and becoming a pedestrian can foster many benefits, including a sense of environmental stewardship, a stronger connection to the community, and improved physical health. In this chapter, a broad range of spaces are considered, including parks, plazas, and sidewalks. The overarching message is that open areas and streetscapes are critical elements in a built environment, particularly when it comes to human health”.

  1. Connectivity and accessibility

In this chapter the guide book searches to develop why planners, designers and people involved in shaping the build environment need to consider the different dimensions of transportation networks.

“Connectivity and accessibility impact the economic, physical, and mental well-being of all people. The ability to easily and safely access jobs, schools, services, shops, and recreational areas is important to maintaining good health. In the United States, historical land-use patterns have produced auto-oriented communities that create connectivity and accessibility barriers, particularly for people who are unable to drive”.

At MKThink we are also looking at how city planning can adapt to our evolving needs over time and how urban spaces can be designed considering factors such as sustainability, wellbeing and safety. And we especially love finding underutilized spaces that can become productive for the benefit of society. Whether it's rooftops or bathrooms or under highway bypasses, tell us what you're interested in transforming

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#planning #urbanplanning #healthyspaces #wellness #architecture #design #community

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