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Place Matters

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Our built environment and you.

What does the built environment mean to me?

Built environments are “the human-created surroundings that provide the setting for human activities, ranging from large-scale civic districts, commercial and industrial buildings, to neighborhoods and individual homes” (Puget Sound Regional Council, Vision 2040).

Built environments are places such as:

  • Parks.
  • Streets and roads.
  • Historic downtowns.
  • Street corners.
  • Markets.
  • Plaza.
  • Community gardens.
  • Buildings.
  • Schools.
  • Neighborhoods.
  • Cities and towns.

Our built environments make it easy or challenging to access:

  • Physical activity and recreation.
  • Healthy food.
  • Affordable housing.
  • Transportation.
  • Local services, facilities and amenities.

Your interactions with the built environment affect your social behavior and lifestyle. You can improve health and quality of life through better community planning.

Why does place matter?

People thrive when they live, work and play in vibrant places and built environments. Healthy places are safe, inviting, inclusive and accessible for everyone. They can:

  • Build a strong sense of community.
  • Improve social connections.
  • Promote people’s health, happiness and well-being.

How do zip codes determine our health?

Where you live affects your health—for better or for worse. Differences in zip codes reveal gaps in access to opportunities like:

  • Quality housing.
  • Schools.
  • Parks.
  • Sidewalks.
  • Public transportation.
  • Health care.

Studies show zip codes often are a good predictor of:

  • How long one may live.
  • Personal health outcome.
  • Quality of education received.
  • Career opportunities.
  • Likelihood of going to prison or being homeless.

How can I help?

Individually you can:

  • Take care of private and public property, to prevent pollution and improve our air, water and land.
  • Take part in park volunteer day to help clean up a local park.
  • Drive less–walk, bike, bus and carpool more.
  • Take part in community garden programs.
  • Reach out to neighbors to promote social connections.
  • Take part in neighborhood activities and events.

Collectively we can:

  • Influence local, regional, state and federal transportation, comprehensive and sustainability plans.
  • Champion resources to carry out local comprehensive plans.
  • Hold local government decision-making accountable.
  • Share priorities and needs with planning commissioners, council members and other elected representatives.
  • Work with other individuals and organizations who share common concerns.
  • Encourage transportation and infrastructure efficiencies, waste reduction, and careful management of natural resources and hazardous materials.
  • Support healthy food access, local food supplies, agriculture, and other food related goals and policies.

Healthy Community Planning Toolbox

Encourage policies recommended in the Healthy Community Planning Toolbox.