What role for environmental public health practitioners in promoting healthy built environments?

Karen Rideout, Tom Kosatsky, Karen K. Lee


Spaces that encourage better health are increasingly seen as key to reducing the burden of chronic disease: many larger Canadian public health departments now include built environment (BE) teams, which work with municipalities and land use planners to promote and/or require the development of health-encouraging spaces. In many public health agencies, it is environmental health practitioners who have assumed the new healthy BE role, but at what cost to existing mandates? We argue that reinventing roles to increase BE capacities within environmental health practice would reinforce health protection mandates while building capacity in chronic disease prevention. Significant expansion into the design of healthier built environments may require some reallocation of resources. However, we anticipate that healthier built environments will reduce threats to health and so lessen the need for conventional health protection, while encouraging activities and behaviours that lead to greater population wellness.


Built environment; chronic disease; environmental health; health hazards; public health practice

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17269/cjph.107.5221