Where we live, work and play can directly impact our physical and mental health. To more aggressively combat negative health factors such as obesity, diabetes, asthma and anxiety, leaders of the nation’s built environment and public health organizations today pledged their support to promote greater collaboration to advance healthier, more walkable communities.

The “Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities,” announced during National Public Health Week, brings together 450,000 professionals who recognize that the built environment — the way a community is designed and built from its buildings and public spaces to how we travel between communities — is a key determinant of health. Working together will create new momentum towards the common objective of creating and sustaining healthy buildings and spaces.

Providing options for how residents want to move around as well as encouraging physical activity can be achieved through a variety of ways. Solutions may include multi-use pathways for walking and biking, Complete Streets policies, equitable and affordable transportation and transit-oriented communities, implementation of green infrastructure, more efficient land, water and resource use, expanded tree canopies and access to buildings with health-promoting indoor environments.

Improving community health also has a direct economic benefit. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 86 percent of health care spending in 2010 was for people with one or more chronic medical conditions.

“The environment in which we live, work and play has a profound effect on our health,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of the American Public Health Association. “If we hope to improve the health of our nation, we must create places that safely encourage physical activity and enhance our well-being. This effort to inspire greater collaboration among public health and built environment practitioners is a smart, innovative approach to building healthy, high-performing communities.”

The “Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities” specifically addresses four key points:

  1. Creating and fostering partnerships that advance health;
  2. Building and understanding of health data and establishing measurable health objectives for plans and projects;
  3. Advancing policies, programs and systems that promote community health, well-being and equity; and
  4. Communicating the importance of health.

Read the full “Call to Action” on APHA's Healthy Community Design page.

Organizations supporting the call to action include: