Health-Enhanced Land Use Planning Software Tool

Walkability MapToronto Public Health has released a report, A Health and Environment Enhanced Land Use Planning Tool – Highlights, which describes the development and pilot testing of a health-enhanced land use planning tool that was developed under the Healthy Canada by Design CLASP I Initiative with funding provided by the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer (CPAC).  Toronto Public Health (TPH) engaged Urban Design 4 Health Limited (UD4H) to create a land use planning tool that could be used to estimate health-related outcomes associated with various land use planning scenarios for the City of Toronto. 

Scenario testing software tools have been developed to estimate how different community design scenarios can impact a range of outcomes.  These planning tools have grown in use as computing power and geographical information systems (GIS) have developed.  The goal of Toronto’s project was to enhance one of these tools to include indicators associated with health outcomes (i.e. indicators of levels of physical activity which are linked to a wide spectrum of chronic diseases).

Using Toronto data, statistical relationships between built environment variables such as housing density, distance to transit stops, length of cycling facilities, and intersection density, and health-related indicators such as levels of physical activity and travel choices, were derived.  Overall, the analysis found that neighbourhoods characterized by high housing densities with easy access to retail outlets, parks and schools, near high quality transit service, are associated with:

  • increased levels of walking, transit use, physical activity and caloric expenditures; and
  • decreased auto use, body mass index (BMI) and transportation-related emissions. 

These findings are consistent with those from a number of studies conducted across North America over the last decade (Frank et al, 2012; Frank et al. 2013).

The results of this analysis were programmed into CommunityViz, a visually engaging, GIS-based scenario testing software tool, to create a tool that can estimate health-related outcomes such as:

  • The number of walking and cycling trips taken for recreation;
  • The number of walking and cycling trips taken to work or school;
  • The average daily active (walking/cycling) trips per average person;
  • The average daily transit trips per person;
  • The average daily auto (driver and passenger) trips per person; and
  • The average daily vehicle kilometres travelled (VKT) per person.

The initial CommunityViz Analysis Template was pilot tested on a redevelopment proposal for the West Don Lands area in Toronto.  The same Template was pilot tested on a development plan for the Surrey Central Station in the City of Surrey in British Columbia as well. 

The methodology, assumptions and data used to develop the software tool, and the results from the two pilot tests, are described in detail in the 389-page background report, The Health-Based Decision-Support Tool: Enabling Public Health, Transportation & Land Use Planners to Assess Key Health Impacts of Urban Design, that was prepared by UD4H.  The 45-page report prepared by Toronto Public Health provides a high level summary of that background report.  

The Analysis Template , developed for Toronto Public Health, which can be applied to other jurisdictions with similar develpment patterns, can be downloaded from the Healthy Canada by Design CLASP website.  Questions about the application of the Analysis Template should be directed to Urban Design 4 Health.


Prepared by Kim Perrotta

This entry was posted in built environment, CLASP, HCBD CLASP, health and land use planning, Healthy Canada by Design, healthy communities, land use planning, public health and land use planning, sustainability, walkability, walkable comunities and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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