Children need nutritious food, enough sleep, exercise, safety and nurturing to be healthy. Healthy habits started in childhood can establish lifelong healthy behavior patterns. Good health is connected to academic success of students. Schools play a critical role in promoting the health and safety of young people. Healthy students have improved cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. Children represent the future, places they live, learn and play should ensure their healthy growth and development.
We all want to stay healthy and independent as we get older. Adopting healthy habits and behaviors, staying involved in your community, using preventive services, and managing health conditions can contribute to healthy aging. Communities want to be thriving places for people to grow up and grow older. People want to age in a place, in the community where they have spent their life, in a place they call home.
Accessibility refers to the design of products, devices, services or environments for people with disabilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) assists and protects people with physical, mental, hearing, vision, speech, developmental or other disabilities. The ADA prohibits discrimination and guarantees that people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to enjoy employment opportunities, to purchase goods and services, and to participate in government programs and services. Accessibility is strongly related to universal design.
Universal design creates environments usable by all people, regardless of ability. Universal design is invisible. It accommodates all people without being an “add on” or designed for people with special needs. Examples of universal design features are step-free entries, curb ramps, levers, wide doorways and handheld adjustable showerheads. Places designed for all ages and abilities are more flexible, efficient and comfortable. Properties with universal design often have higher value and longevity.
Environmental justice means not only protecting human health and the environment for everyone, but also ensuring that all people are treated fairly and given the opportunity to participate meaningfully in the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. When an environmental public health issue arises in a community that has been environmentally distressed, special environmental justice considerations are appropriate. Some places where community residents are exposed disproportionately to environmental harms or risks fall outside of regulatory authority. Consideration of civil rights, planning, community development, natural resources, cleanup or dispute resolution may be needed.
Healthy food is important for wellness. Whether people have access to food is determined by production, distribution, sustainability and affordability. Together these factors determine food security. Some communities have limited access to healthy and affordable foods. This is often due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers markets and healthy food retailers. Fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and other healthful whole foods can be difficult to find in communities already suffering from other health inequities. For some people buying nutritious foods may be too expensive to maintain a healthy diet. Communities where healthier foods are available and affordable tend to have healthier residents, economic prosperity, job opportunities and higher property values.
Safety is protecting people from danger, risk or injury. The way places both indoors and outdoors are planned, designed, built and maintained can improve safety. People want to live, work, learn and play in safe places. Safety is an important built environment indicator. Law enforcement agencies think about safety in terms of crime. Traffic engineers measure safety in terms of automobile, cyclist and pedestrian accidents. Hospitals consider emergency room visits and insurance costs. Health departments count unintentional injuries. Safety is important for people and their communities. Safe communities tend to have higher property values.
Health disparities are differences in quality of health and availability of health care between populations. Health disparities come from a variety of factors such as individual behaviors, genetics and environmental risks. These differences are often related to social, economic and environmental disadvantages. Differences in health and health care between groups of people can be social justice and health equity issues. Many health disparities are considered avoidable. Communities that understand and respond to health disparities benefit both individual and population health. Improving health disparities reduces unnecessary health care costs.