Designing A Healthy LA

Historically, there exists a strong relationship between the design of our cities and public health. Outbreaks of communicable diseases common in earlier centuries were alleviated by regulations affecting the design of cities and buildings. Improvements to sanitation systems and requirements for ventilation in buildings, among others, significantly reduced epidemics of cholera and tuberculosis of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These advances in public health that reduced the consequences of those infectious disease have been replaced during the 21st century by a different epidemic – a significant rise in the percentage of adults living with chronic health conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Designing a Healthy LA is intended for those responsible for the planning, design and construction of our City and its open spaces, buildings, streets, and neighborhoods. It presents fundamental information on opportunities and strategies for planning and design decisions that directly affect health, while recognizing the great diversity of cultures, physical settings, and differing needs of Los Angelenos.

A broad range of topics and best practices addressing the physical environment, often requiring minimal intervention and costs, are provided in the following pages. Optimally, as many relevant recommended strategies as possible should be incorporated into each project. The more strategies are utilized, the greater the project’s potential impact on health. Significant documentation exists on the beneficial aspects of environmental design on health outcomes and it is these evidence-based design strategies that are the basis for the recommendations in Designing a Healthy LA.

Health is a shared responsibility and a pursuit for all of us – not just the health department or medical community. Prioritizing a healthier city and people through the choices we make in designing our communities results in a better, more equitable quality of life for all the residents of Los Angeles.

Table of Contents

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Chapter 1: A Healthy LA is Active

Places and spaces encouraging people to incorporate physical activity into daily routines is fundamental to the creation of a healthy L.A.. Designing a Healthy LA requires a shift from single-passenger vehicles to multiple modes of mobility, including rail, bus, bikes, and walking. Transit is considered an active form of transportation as users often walk to and from transit stops, completing the “last mile”. A system of walking and bicycling paths and multi-modal transit options encourage and allows for increased movement, independent of the car, throughout Los Angeles and increases the vibrancy of the City and the health of its residents. In addition to personal and mass transit options, increased access to varied forms of open space is also shown to increase levels of activity, leading to improved health outcomes. Los Angeles’ varied neighborhoods need to accommodate diverse users and activities with a range of scales and types of open spaces, encouraging physical activity for people of all ages and abilities.

  • Walkability
  • Bikeability
  • Active transit
  • Public open space

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Chapter 2: A Healthy LA Eats Well

Types, amount, and availability of healthy food is just as important in promoting healthier lifestyles and combating chronic disease as is increased physical activity. Currently, there simply are not enough healthy food outlets and places growing and selling nutritious foods to serve the varied neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Providing locally produced, nutritious foods positively impacts personal health and well-being. Urban gardens can provide broader advantages - boosting the local economy and improving communities by bettering environmental quality. Cultivating and consuming locally grown food can ensure a high level of food quality, take advantage of L.A.’s climatic advantages and reinforce healthy eating behaviors.

  • Locally produced food
  • Access to nutritious food

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Chapter 3: A Healthy LA is a Community

A healthy community includes equitable access to education, housing, jobs, the ability to live without fear of violence, freedom from environmental hazards, and a meaningful built environment. The design of our communities is critical to the health of Los Angelenos, both their physical and mental well-being. Building design can easily promote a more active lifestyle. The organization of a building and the visibility of stairs are a simple way to increase daily physical activity. Embracing universal design increases accessibility for all people, with and without disabilities. Placemaking is at the heart of a community and critical to individual stability and well-being. A well designed urban environment can elevate our quality of life and result in a cleaner, more active, and socially connected Los Angeles.

  • Social capital
  • Clean environment
  • Built environment