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Built environment


The design of our neighbourhoods and cities can have a profound impact on the degree to which people can live healthy, active lifestyles and decrease risks to health. Healthy, active lifestyles can be encouraged by the way we design our streets, parks, recreational facilities, and where we locate our homes, schools and retail areas.

The Department of Health supports the incorporation of healthy design elements into urban development that encourage healthy active living.

Design elements that are supported by current evidence include:

  • compact mix of land uses and groupings of destinations that meet the needs of the community within walking distance of most residents. Offer a wide choice of housing, retail, shops and services, sport and recreation, local employment, schools, and community facilities within walkable distances.
  • activity centres with a mix of land uses and destinations that meet daily living needs within walking distance of most residential dwellings and near public transport
  • an accessible, connected movement network integrating walking, cycling and public transport routes for safe and convenient travel within neighbourhoods and to local destinations, and integrating appropriate infrastructure for the efficient and timely transport of food around the state.
  • a range of quality public open spaces, within walking distance of most residents and along connected routes to contribute towards the recreation, physical activity and social needs of all members of the community
  • a range of residential lot sizes and choice of housing products and tenures, including increased residential densities in close proximity to mixed use centres, local employment, community facilities and public transport, to facilitate housing diversity and choice to meet the different housing needs of the community.
  • accessible, connected schools that are integrated with walking and cycling networks and serviced by public transport routes to enable students to conveniently and safely access the school via means other than the car. 

Evidence brief

The Chronic Disease Prevention Directorate has developed an evidence brief that summarises the literature supporting the creation of environments that encourage healthy active living. It is designed to be used by State and Local Governments and developers, seeking to create new or redevelop existing neighbourhoods. It is structured according to six key components of urban development, and includes a rationale for action and a summary of the key design elements that have demonstrated effectiveness in increasing healthy active living.

Healthy Active by Design

Healthy Active by Design (external site) (HABD) is a new easy to use online tool that supports the design and construction of healthy, active communities. It utilises current evidence and promotes the key built environment design features that have demonstrated effectiveness in increasing physical activity and healthy eating in places where people live, work, learn and play.

Led by the Heart Foundation, HABD is supported by a Project Management Group which includes the Departments of Health, Transport, Planning, Sport and Recreation; the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority, Landcorp and the Planning Institute of Australia.

Environments which support good health may do so by promoting healthy and active lifestyle behaviours, by making healthy choices the easier or more attractive choices, and by ensuring equitable access to nutritious food. Good urban design incorporates safe and attractive opportunities for active transport (walking, cycling and public transport) and physical recreation, as well as ready walkable access to schools, local shopping and services, and a range of well-designed housing options.

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