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Community Design

Benefits of Good Community DesignThe design and layout of Utah's cities and neighborhoods influence the health of all Utahns. For example, it is difficult to be physically active if sidewalks and parks are not available and accessible; eating a healthy diet is hard if healthy food choices are not available in your community. Urban sprawl, inadequate public transportation, and energy inefficient buildings not only affect human health but also have a distinct impact on climate change through the generation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Healthy community design means planning and designing communities that make it easier for people to live healthy lives. Healthy community design:
  • Lowers vehicle dependence by building homes, businesses, schools, churches and parks closer together to encourage walking and biking
  • Provides opportunities for people to be active and social closer to home, thereby improving physical and mental health
  • Allows people to age in a community that reflects their changing lifestyles and physical capabilities
Community design elements are related to some of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States such as injuries, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma. Healthy community design provides the following benefits:
  • Promotes physical activity, thereby reducing adult and childhood obesity
  • Improves air quality by lowering air pollution
  • Lowers risk of injuries
  • Reduces traffic injuries
  • Increases social connection and sense of community
  • Reduces contributions to climate change
Healthy community design includes a variety of principles:
Principles of Good Community Design
Where you live matters to your health and many experts agree that zip code can be a better predictor of health than genetic code. Income, education, and health are intimately connected; residents in lower educated and lower income zip codes are more likely to have heart disease, cancer and a lower life expectancy than those in zip codes with higher levels of education and income. For example, in some parts of the U.S., the life expectancy of babies born to mothers in different neighborhoods within the same city can vary by as much as 25 years. However, everybody has the right to live the healthiest life possible, regardless of zip code. Through a variety of efforts which include healthy community design, many community-related risk factors can be addressed and it is possible to create healthier communities where we can live, work and play.
Picture of a bike The primary way to promote health through community design is to make sure there is access to many types of transportation, healthy food, safe housing, and public spaces that promote health. This includes access to:
  • transit, like buses or trains
  • sidewalks and bike paths
  • stores that sell food, especially those stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables
  • safe and energy efficient housing
  • parks and public spaces

Because healthy community design is such an integrated effort amongst architects, city planners, and government officials, it is important to be a responsible and proactive citizen in regards to your health. You can help take action to promote a healthy community by:
  • Attending community meetings where decisions are made about how land will be used
  • Talking with elected officials
  • Working for policy change


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The Utah EPHT Network collects greenhouse gas data from the Greenhouse Gas Inventories from the Utah Geological Survey. Remaining community design data were obtained using the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network application program interface (API).

View complete metadata for: green house gas, access to parks and elementary schools, commute time, proximity of population and schools to highways, and types of transportation to work.
The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health's Center for Health Data IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Sun, 22 May 2022 16:14:53 from Utah Department of Health, Center for Health Data, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 7 Feb 2019 11:20:46 MST