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Transportation Health Impact Assessment Toolkit

This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.

The Healthy Community Design Initiative, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, is no longer a funded program and the information on this website is not being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.


Strategies for Health-Oriented Transportation Projects and Policies
Incorporate Healthy Community Design Features

Healthy community design is about planning and designing communities to make it easier for people to live healthy lives. Healthy community design encourages mixed land uses to bring people closer to the places where they live, work, worship, and play. Doing so reduces dependence on cars and provides affordable housing, good bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, space for social gathering, and access to transit, parks, and healthy foods.

Strategies recommended in existing Transportation HIAs:

  • Adopt land use regulations that prioritize needs of pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users.
  • Encourage high-density, multi-use neighborhoods.
  • Improve connectivity with grid-like street patterns, greater intersection density, and limits to block size.
  • Design streets to serve the needs of all transportation modes.
  • Implement transit-oriented development.
  • Expand green space.
  • Incorporate communal gathering spaces into community design to strengthen social capital.
  • Mitigate roadway noise.
  • Locate residential and community facilities away from transportation-related emissions.



  • Boothe, V. L. and D. G. Shendell (2008). “Potential health effects associated with residential proximity to freeways and primary roads: review of scientific literature, 1999-2006.” J Environ Health 70(8): 33-41, 55-36.

Asthma, diminished lung function, adverse birth outcomes, childhood cancer, and increased cardiopulmonary, cardiovascular, cerebrovascular, and stroke mortality risk for people living within 200 meters from a major highway. The review suggests locating daycares, schools, and nursing homes at least 300 meters from a major roadway to minimize emissions exposures to vulnerable populations.

  • Bell, J. F., J. S. Wilson and G. C. Liu (2008). “Neighborhood greenness and 2-year changes in body mass index of children and youth.” Am J Prev Med 35(6): 547-553.

A two-year observational study found that more greenness was associated with lower BMI scores among children. Expanding green space could prevent childhood obesity.

This study of transit-oriented development in California includes a literature review of the benefits of TOD and an overview of current practices in California and the United States.

  • Dill J. (2004). Measuring Network Connectivity for Bicycling and Walking. Transportation Research Board, 2004 Annual Meeting CD-ROM.

The meeting discusses the different measurements of connectivity and how each encourages bicycling and walking.

The report summarizes the relationship between community design characteristics and health outcomes, including respiratory and cardiovascular health, injury, physical fitness, social capital, and mental health.

The document gives federal guidance on predicting and assessing noise from public transit.

  • Feng, J., T. A. Glass, F. C. Curriero, W. F. Stewart and B. S. Schwartz (2010). “The built environment and obesity: a systematic review of the epidemiologic evidence.” Health Place 16(2): 175-190.

This review found that the county sprawl index is consistently associated with obesity outcomes and that a greater mix of land uses is associated with fewer obese residents.

  • Heath G, Brownson R, Kruger J, Miles R, Powell K, and the Task Force on Community Preventative Services. (2006). “The effectiveness of urban design and land use and transport policies and practices to increase physical activity: a systematic review”. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 3 (4Suppl). Available at: [PDF – 192 KB]. Accessed 29 July 2011.

Street-scale urban design and land use policies, such as city blocks with playgrounds, squares, one-way streets, traffic calming, bicycle lanes, improved lighting, and enhanced aesthetics, are associated with improving the percentage of people who engage in physical activity. Insufficient evidence exists for association of increases in physical activity with policy interventions that improve transit access, increase pedestrian and cyclist activity, reduce car use, and improve air quality.

This article from the Department of Urban Housing and Development explains how cities across the U.S have dropped their minimum parking requirements to increase the affordability of housing and the land available for affordable developments.

  • Kawachi, I. (1999). “Social capital and community effects on population and individual health.” Ann N Y Acad Sci 896: 120-130.

Strengthening social capital within communities is a strategy to improve community health and reduce socio-economic disparities. Violent crimes are associated with low social capital.

  • Maas, J., R. A. Verheij, P. P. Groenewegen, S. de Vries and P. Spreeuwenberg (2006). “Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation?” J Epidemiol Community Health 60(7): 587-592.

A greener environment within 1–3 km around homes is correlated with an improved perception of health, as opposed to the perception of people living in a less green environment. Enhancing green space in urban planning can more effectively improve the health perception of such vulnerable groups as children, the elderly, and persons of lower socio-economic status.

This is a manual of design strategies for buildings, streets, and urban spaces to promote physical activity and healthier lifestyles.

  • Wood, L., L. D. Frank and B. Giles-Corti (2010). “Sense of community and its relationship with walking and neighborhood design.” Soc Sci Med 70(9): 1381-1390.

This study examined the association between sense of community, walking, and neighborhood attributes. It concluded that urban design that creates a pedestrian-friendly area may improve sense of community and enhance social capital.

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  • Page last reviewed: October 19, 2011 (archived document)
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