Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2018

Building healthy cities

By Ben P Lee and Erin Sharp Newton 18 Oct 2018 1

This poster illustrates how professionals working together can positively impact the health of a population.


Economic globalisation has had a major impact on population health. Nearly 30 per cent of the global population has become increasingly overweight and obese. Diabetes and related illnesses threaten all ages. Our population health is deteriorating and the cost of healthcare is skyrocketing. This sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle affects individuals, the community and the planet at large.

Within a city/town, how does the built environment play a role in helping or hurting this dilemma of health? Architects design the buildings that fill our cities and towns, but how can architectural professionals improve health and wellness in the built environment, and the space beyond?

When we recognise what is connected and what is not, we begin to identify where roots of wellness already exist, as well as where there are gaps that need to be filled. In order to weave positive outcomes between buildings into the urban fabric that motivates a vibrant, equitable and socio-economically sustainable community, we must study the complexities of that community.

Using the lens of the architect, we take on our immediate community of Morristown, NJ as a community case study. Morristown is 45 minutes outside of New York City and holds a simultaneously suburban and urban character, offering many of the gifts of a big city while retaining aspects of the green nature found in small towns. It also suffers some of the same woes. Through the architect’s view of Morristown, this poster considers, maps and identifies:

  1. a framework for comprehensive strategies for health and wellness;
  2. data collection and analysis on contributing factors such as: healthcare access, walkability, physical fitness and food resources, cultural and socio-economic influences, areas of vulnerability, parks and recreation, community resources, government and municipal services, policies and programmes, education, key organisations, transportation, parking, and physical infrastructure and social infrastructure; and
  3. propositions for interventions, such as a dedicated health district and individual opportunities.

The poster illustrates how professionals working together can positively impact a population. Applying lifecycle design, and health and wellness principles through interdisciplinary interaction to all building aspects, including housing, schools, workplace, commerce and institutions, is critical to the development of a healthier built environment that supports healthier communities. Architects, designers, planners, healthcare and social agencies have the collective power to measurably improve population health.

Organisations involved