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What role for environmental public health practitioners in promoting healthy built environments?

Abstract

Spaces that encourage better health are increasingly seen as key to reducing the burden of chronic disease: many larger Canadian public health departments now include built environment (BE) teams, which work with municipalities and land use planners to promote and/or require the development of healthencouraging spaces. In many public health agencies, it is environmental health practitioners who have assumed the new healthy BE role, but at what cost to existing mandates? We argue that reinventing roles to increase BE capacities within environmental health practice would reinforce health protection mandates while building capacity in chronic disease prevention. Significant expansion into the design of healthier built environments may require some reallocation of resources. However, we anticipate that healthier built environments will reduce threats to health and so lessen the need for conventional health protection, while encouraging activities and behaviours that lead to greater population wellness.

Résumé

Les espaces qui favorisent la santé sont de plus en plus perçus comme étant essentiels à la réduction du fardeau des maladies chroniques: bon nombre de grands services de santé publique canadiens ont maintenant des équipes axées sur le milieu bâti (MB), qui travaillent avec les municipalités et les responsables de l’aménagement du territoire pour promouvoir et/ou exiger l’aménagement d’espaces favorisant la santé. Dans de nombreux organismes de santé publique, ce sont les praticiens de la santé environnementale qui assument ce nouveau rôle à l’égard du MB, mais à quel coût pour les mandats existants? Nous faisons valoir qu’une réinvention des rôles pour perfectionner les capacités en matière de MB dans la pratique de la santé environnementale renforcerait les mandats de protection de la santé et les capacités de prévention des maladies chroniques. Une expansion importante dans la conception de milieux bâtis plus sains pourrait exiger une réaffectation des ressources. Nous croyons cependant que les milieux bâtis sains vont réduire les menaces pour la santé, et donc le besoin des mesures classiques de protection de la santé, tout en encourageant les activités et les comportements qui favorisent le mieux-être des populations

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Correspondence to Karen Rideout PhD.

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Conflict of Interest: None to declare.

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Rideout, K., Kosatsky, T. & Lee, K.K. What role for environmental public health practitioners in promoting healthy built environments?. Can J Public Health 107, e126–e129 (2016). https://doi.org/10.17269/cjph.107.5221

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.17269/cjph.107.5221

Key Words

  • Built environment
  • chronic disease
  • environmental health
  • health hazards
  • public health practice

Mots Clés

  • milieu bâti
  • maladie chronique
  • santé
  • environnementale
  • dangers pour la santé
  • pratique en santé publique