Community Design

The design of the built environment directly influences the health of our communities. For instance, people who live in more walkable cities are less overweight and are more physically active. 1Journal of Physical Activity and Health

Unfortunately, the design of many of our cities has introduced considerable consequences for our community health by limiting our access to transportation, food, health care, and recreation while decreasing our water and air quality and social capital.

Moving forward, governing policies and codes will play an important role in creating healthy community design. Sadly, studies show that local government regulations have discouraged developers to invest in design projects that could prevent these undesirable outcomes2Health and Community Design: The Impact Of The Built Environment On Physical Activity(2003) Lawrence Frank, Peter Engelke, Thomas Schmid. Island Press . Questions regarding how and where in community development will guide the conversation and action around improving healthy community design.

What It Means

In many instances, communities with low socioeconomic status suffer disproportionately from the negative consequences associated with design and transportation decisions.

Issues stemming from community design flaws that include poor water quality, high rates of pollution, toxic industrial sites, and irresponsible waste streams call for environmental justice.

Giving community residents the ability to participate in decisions regarding proposed activities that may affect their health and environment is a large piece in practicing health equity in community design.

Why It Matters

Healthy community design helps create space for and access to other elements of a healthy community. Communities that are faced with adversity are able to respond successfully when the built environment is designed to promote and build up these elements that promote health. Community design that creates social networks, reduces dependence on external resources, creates economic vitality, and provides access to healthcare will do well in the face of adversity.

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Live Well Arizona is a continually evolving website and will grow with your input. Help us identify, lift up, and celebrate efforts that help Arizonans be healthier and live well.

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National Resources: The Big Picture

Look here for statistics, analysis strategies, resources and best practices from across the country.

  • Active Living by Design

  • American Planning Association: Planning and Community Health Center

  • Build Healthy Places Network

  • Center for Active Design

  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention – Healthy Places

  • Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI)

  • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation – Built Environment and Health

  • Smart Growth America – Dangerous by Design

  • Smart Growth America – Safe Streets Academy

  • Urban Land Institute – Building Healthy Places Initiative

  • Vision Zero Network

  • WELL Building Institute

Arizona Resources: Local Spotlight

Looking to start, or engage in a conversation about Community Design and how you can contribute? Here are connectors, conveners, advocates and actors to bring to the table.

  • American Planning Association, Arizona Chapter

  • Arizona Health Matters

  • Arizona Partnership for Health Communities

  • ASU School of Sustainability

  • Imagine Mesa

  • Living Streets Alliance

  • Maricopa County Food System Coalition

  • Regional Councils of Government

  • Urban Land Institute Arizona

  • This Could be Phoenix

  • The Urban Phoenix Project



Connect with Community Design efforts-in-progress, and the partners who are helping to make them happen:

Bike Ajo: A coalition working to improve access to a sustainable cycling hub that provides education on bicycle safety for recreation and transportation; trains community members on bicycle repair, certifies community members, and builds health-based partnerships with local organizations.

City of Phoenix Cool Urban Spaces Project: A collaborative project by ASU and U of A, the Urban Spaces Project completed a report on the effects of heat mitigation on Phoenix thermal temperatures.

City of Tempe 20 Minute City Project: Aiming to build an efficient, sustainable and multi-modal transportation system, Tempe is taking a particularly comprehensive approach.

Healthy Corridors: ULI is investigating best practices to reinvent under-performing suburban and urban arterials in health-promoting ways.

Life Bridge Community Alliance Resource Center: Shared-use campus that provides individuals and families with emergency support, adult learning courses, health education, and employment assistance.

Rancho Sahuarita: An award-winning, family-friendly master-planned community in Southern Arizona.


Signature Projects

Get a bird’s eye view of efforts from around the country that can be an inspiration and reference point for Arizona-based work:

buildingcommunityWorkshop: A Texas based nonprofit community design center seeking to improve the livability and viability of communities through the practice of thoughtful design and making.

CityLab: Through original reporting, sharp analysis, and visual storytelling, CityLab informs and inspires the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there.

City of Winnipeg: The city of Winnipeg has installed adjustable concrete barriers in the downtown area to create bike lanes in order to work with feedback given by city residents.

Collaborative for High Performance Schools: Develops tools that help make schools energy, water, and material efficient, well-lit, thermally comfortable, acoustically sounds, safe, healthy and easy to operate.

Year of Healthy Communities Event Submission

Add your event to the Year of Healthy Communities calendar.

If you have questions, please contact Emily Kepner ( or 602-774-3446).
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Year of Healthy Communities Event Submission

Add your event to the Year of Healthy Communities calendar.

If you have questions, please contact Emily Kepner ( or 602-774-3446).
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