Health and the Built Environment

The built environment is the space in which we live, work, learn, and play. It includes workplaces and housing, businesses and schools, landscapes and infrastructure.

Community design plays a major role in shaping public health. People are more active in walkable, bike-friendly communities. Traffic decreases when people can walk or bike where they need to go, and fewer cars on the road can improve air quality and respiratory health. And when neighborhoods have access to parks and healthy foods, the risk of obesity and related illnesses is decreased.

Addressing health in the built environment requires integrated policies, supported by partnerships that foster vibrant, healthy places. The U.S. Department of Health and Florida Department of Health are focused on addressing the causes of chronic disease – especially inactivity and inequity – through policies and practices that improve health in the built environment.


Is your community hard at work improving health through physical activity, healthy food, the built environment, or a focus on equity? Every year the Florida Department of Health invites communities to share their stories and best practices for a chance to be recognized as a Healthy Community Champion. The 2019 application window is now closed. Click here or visit the Be Recognized tab at the top of the page for more information.


Use the links below and also check out the resources page to learn more about initiatives and tools to help your community create healthier places:

Did you Know?

• In 2016, nearly 90% of Floridians commuted to work by automobile. 
• In 2016, only 31% of Florida’s population lived within a ½ mile of a healthy food source.
• If current trends continue, almost 60% of Floridians will be obese by 2030.


Connecting Health in the Built Environment

Nearly one in four Americans say they don’t exercise or engage in any physical activity outside of work. A lifestyles is a major contributor to the rising rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic conditions. According to the USDOT, transportation influences health in the built environment through five primary pathways:

Active transportation

Exercise has a direct effect on our overall health. Providing opportunities to walk, cycle and use public transportation are ways to build physical activity into our daily lives. Active transportation options also encourage social interaction, helping reduce feelings of isolation and prolonging life.


Pedestrian and bicycle safety are growing concerns in Florida, which tops the list of the most dangerous places for pedestrians in the country. Street designs that support safe walking and cycling and discourage speeding can reduce transportation injuries and fatalities. Walkable places also tend to have more “eyes on the street,” helping to reduce crime. 

Air quality

Transportation is a leading source of air pollution, which contributes to asthma, poor heart health, increased risk of low birth weight, and other negative health outcomes. Active transportation options, use of alternative fuels, and electric vehicles are ways to improve air quality.


Providing a well-connected, multi-modal transportation network increases people’s ability to access destinations that can influence their health and well-being, such as jobs, health care services, and parks. Transit stations with bicycle parking or bike-on-bus options, comfortable bus stations, and well-designed street grids with sidewalks and connected bicycle lanes are a few examples of ways to connect people to healthy places.



All populations, including those unable to drive due to income, age, or disability, need access to safe, affordable, and reliable transportation options. Improving pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and providing safe access to public transportation are important to achieving an equitable and just community.