The Creation of the Healthy Development Index
Under the Healthy Canada by Design CLASP Initiative, with funding provided by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC), Peel Public Health collaborated with researchers at The Centre for Research on Inner City Health at St. Michael’s Hospital and McMaster University to create a Healthy Development Index (HDI) that could be used to support land use planning decisions.
The HDI is a tool for assessing the urban form of existing and proposed communities along standards that support active living and thereby positive outcomes. The evidence based tool identifies seven elements of the built environment that have been clearly linked to health impacts:
1. Density: The number of people/jobs to be accommodated in a specific area;
2. Service Proximity: Distance between where people live and where they access services;
3. Land Use Mix: Mix of housing types, employment and services in an area;
4. Street Connectivity: Directness of travel and the number of route options;
5. Streetscape Characteristics: Facilities for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users (e.g. lighting, way-finding, sidewalks);
6. Parking: On and off street storage for automobiles and bicycles; and
7. Aesthetics and the Human Scale: Creation of safe, inviting and physically and visually pleasing pedestrian and recreational environments.
Each element has been sub-divided into quantifiable measures that that have been shown in the scientific literature to increase the walkability of a community.
In 2011, the Health Background Study was created to present the elements from the HDI in a user friendly format to ensure that health impacts are considered in development decisions. This study includes a Terms of Reference and User Guide to help planners and health professionals understand the elements and how they affect health-related factors in a community.
Accomplishments and On-Going Use:
Recognizing the link between health and the built environment, both the Peel Regional Council and area municipalities (i.e. City of Mississauga, City of Brampton and Town of Caledon) have endorsed the use and application of the HDI and the Health Background Study Framework. The tools are currently used to support the creation of healthier communities throughout the region.
Currently, Public Health Staff use the HDI and the Health Background Study to guide comments on Regional Official Plan policies, regional environmental assessments, community improvement plans, and the creation of sustainable development guidelines and health impact statements.
Adapting the Tool
The application of these tools requires a context sensitive approach. Other jurisdictions can apply or integrate the elements and measures in the HDI into their policies, studies and guidelines to encourage development patterns that support walkability and active transportation. For example, they could be applied to sustainable development guidelines, workplace initiatives, transportation studies, and community improvement plans. For more information on the HDI, the Health Background Study and other built environment initiatives in the Region of Peel, please visit: www.healthypeelbydesign.ca
Prepared by Shilpa Mandoda, Analyst: Research & Policy, Chronic Disease & Injury Prevention, Health Services, Region of Peel