Healthy Active by Design

Effective urban design can make a difference to how people use transportation networks, buildings and public spaces which can have a positive or negative impact on our health.
To address this the Heart Foundation has collaborated with planning, transport and local government groups across Western Australia to develop Healthy Active by Design an online tool kit.

Jo Appleby, Subiaco, Australia

There is widespread evidence both locally and internationally that the design of our neighbourhoods and cities has a major impact on physical activity. Infrastructure Australia in its State of Australian Cities Report highlights that the “design of urban environments can contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities by supporting active living, physical activity through walking, cycling, and using public transport and opportunities for social interaction”.

In response to this, the Heart Foundation in collaboration with the Physical Activity Taskforce and WA government departments of Planning, Transport, Sport and Recreation and Health established the Healthy Active by Design project. The term Healthy Active by Design was adopted to describe ways in which master planning can influence healthy environments through creating the conditions and opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating through the design of communities, streets, schools, public open space, recreation facilities and the use of active travel modes. Urban designs, such as mixed land uses, that increase the opportunities for people to walk, cycle, utilise public transport are more likely to increase physical activity and create socially vibrant liveable communities. This in turn delivers a range of health, social, economic and environmental benefits and creates more sustainable communities.

The design and development of the Healthy Active by Design tool addressed complex interactions of the built environment through providing a number of practical simple strategies and tools to support change across planning processes and increase liveability throughout communities.

To this end, the online tool provides
• Clear evidence summaries to assist in advocating change to current planning practices
• Alignment and links to policy connects
• Comprehensive checklist of built form design strategies that can be adapted for each locality and phase of the planning process
• Local case studies demonstrating how the design features can be implemented locally through the application of Healthy Active by Design principles
• Links to high quality international best practice examples to inspire change locally

The nine HABD design features with the aim to deliver healthy and active communities have started to underpin master plan developments. Implementation of the design features will contribute to more walkability across urban settings and support movement networks that prioritise pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in a vibrant public realm that increases liveability.

The Healthy Active by Design tool was launched in March 2014 with an ongoing program of work to create environments that support healthy and active living. The implementation strategy includes regular communication, information sharing opportunities, networks and partnership building and interactive training opportunities. The tool has the major attraction of being online and therefore provides a platform to keep abreast of new information, research, innovative case-studies of supportive environments for healthy living.

The Healthy Active by Design tool was awarded both the Planning Ministers Award and the presidents Award at the Planning Institute of Australia WA Awards for Planning Excellence 2014.


Jo Appleby, Subiaco, Australia

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