Community Design

Family enjoying a picnic in a park

Public health problems in the United States, such as motor vehicle-related injuries, obesity, physical inactivity, and breathing and heart problems related to air pollution are all influenced by the design of our communities. Designing communities that encourage healthy choices is critical to improving the health and quality of life of community members.

We Track That

The Tracking Network contains information about community design elements that are related to some of the leading causes of death and disability in the United States, such as injuries, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.

Types of Data

The health and safety of a community are influenced by many factors. Tracking these data can serve as a benchmark to demonstrate the impact that changes in community design elements can have on activity levels, time spent outdoors, obesity rates, chronic diseases, and mitigation of motor vehicle-related fatalities.

Access to Parks and Schools* ¶
This data estimates the number or percentage of people living within a half mile of a park or a public school.

Commute Time
This indicator estimates the average one-way commute time for workers and breaks down the number of workers driving, taking public transit, or walking to work.

Motor Vehicle-Related Fatalitiesexternal icon ** ¶
This indicator displays the number, rate, and location of motor vehicle crashes as well as calculates the percentage of motor vehicle crashes involving cyclists or pedestrians.

Proximity of Populations to Schools and Highways +
This indicator displays the number and percent of public schools located within 150m of a highway. It also displays the number of people and percentage of a population living withing 150m of a highway.

Types of Transportation to Work
This data estimate to generate and percent of people aged 16 and older in a given geographic area who used a specific type of transportation to commute to work.

* These data are supplied by the National Center for Educational Statistics. Additional Data supplied by Navteq, 2010, Quarter 3, “LANDUSEA” layer for parks.
** These data come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). FARS may slightly underestimate the number of fatal crashes by not counting off-the-road fatalities and deaths that occur more than 30 days after the crash.
¶ These data are supplied by the U.S. Census (2010)
+ Geospatial Research, Analysis and Services Program (GRASP); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (CDC/ATSDR)

Data Highlight
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Click on the gear icon to select layers: surface smoke, current radar, transportation noise, active Atlantic cyclones. Try it!

Data in Action

These data can be used to

  • serve as a benchmark to demonstrate the impact that changes in the location of parks and schools can have on activity levels, time spent outdoors, obesity rates, and chronic diseases.
  • demonstrate the impact that changes in commute time can have on related variables, such as air pollution, physical activity, and traffic safety over time.
  • support additional resources or behavior change to reduce motor vehicle crash fatalities, especially among vulnerable groups (pedestrians and bicyclists).
  • question is there any linkage between proximity to highway and health outcomes?
  • identify communities that have more walking, bicycling, and public transportation trips that can
  • serve as an example to model policies and provisions to promote active and public transportation.

Read these success stories to learn about the community design related work happening in our funded Tracking Programs.

California |Oregon

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Page last reviewed: October 21, 2020