Designing for Healthy Communities

We hear a lot about designing for healthy communities. But what does that really mean? What does a healthy community actually look like? What are the design elements that support a healthy environment? Well, there are many factors. In general, a healthy community should be a place where people have the opportunity to make healthy choices. Healthy environments are safe, diverse, equal and resilient. We have identified many factors that contribute to a healthy environment. The factors fall into four main groups: equality, safety, sustainability, community.



Access to Health Care and Coverage

  • In a healthy community, access to quality health care should be available for all groups. Quality health care supports health literacy in the community as well as disease and illness prevention.

Economic Opportunity

  • Job training, affordable commercial space, commerce clusters, proximity to talent and living wages all play into economic opportunity in a community and support community health by creating stability, mental health, access, and physical activity.

Affordable Quality Housing

  • Affordable, socially integrated housing should be available to all members of the community. As housing ages, communities should take part in updating and revitalizing older neighborhoods. Affordable quality housing supports community health by creating stability, preventing the spread of disease, providing climate protection and overall mental health.

Educational Opportunity

  • High-quality education should be available and affordable for all age groups from early childhood through adult education.



Community safety

  • Healthy communities are safe, free of crime, violence and other threats. Design should promote building environments that feel safe and promote security.

Social Justice

  • Addressing the social, physical and historical differences affecting socially disadvantaged groups supports healthy communities by creating physical and mental health, economic stability, resiliency and public safety.



Environmental quality

  • Clean air, clean waterways, healthy soil, water supply and security, minimized toxins and pollution, affordable and sustainable energy are critical to healthy communities. Sustainability measures keep the community healthy and promote the importance of sustainability on a personal level.

Healthy Community Design

  • Walkability, mixed-use developments, adaptive re-use, vacant land reuse opportunities, are all ways that the commercial real estate and development disciplines can support healthy communities in a direct way.



Transportation options

  • Safe, accessible and affordable transportation options make for a healthy environment by promoting air quality and creating flexibility and movement within the community.

Food Access

  • Healthy communities have affordable, healthy, nutritious food options for a diverse population.

Social and Cultural Cohesion

  • Opportunities for engagement with other members of the community, civic engagement, and supportive neighborhoods all support public safety, economic stability and promote a healthy community.

Parks and Recreational Opportunities

  • Access to affordable and safe opportunities for physical activity and areas for multi-purpose community activities create opportunities for physical activity and well-being.
Katie Craven
Katie Craven is Marketing, Communication and Brand Manager at Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers, a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Managers as well as additional blog posts can be found here.
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