Government of Canada Supports Healthy Living through Community Design

News release

Housing for Health project to benefit more than 4,000 residents in Alberta

May 14, 2019 - Edmonton, AB - Public Health Agency of Canada

The way communities are planned - from the presence of parks and pedestrian pathways to the availability of safe roads and community gardens-can affect the health of Canadians. Designing communities that encourage regular physical activity and make healthy eating the easier option can improve overall health and help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers. It can also help people age healthy and more independently in their communities.

Today, on behalf of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, the Honourable Amarjeet Sohi, Minister of Natural Resources, announced that the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is investing $4.4 million over five years to support the University of Alberta's Housing for Health project. The University of Alberta will partner with the Christensen Group of Companies, an Alberta-based real estate developer, and many other organizations to incorporate active design features into two new residential buildings and surrounding neighbourhoods in Edmonton and Whitecourt, Alberta.

The Housing for Health project will design buildings and communities in a way that encourages physical activity, healthy eating and a sense of community belonging. Community design features may include the creation of green spaces and paths around the housing developments to encourage walking, biking and playing. Gardens may also be created to promote physical activity outdoors, access to healthy foods, and community engagement. In addition, the project will provide residents with health promotion programming.

Throughout the initiative, the communities and key stakeholders-such as developers, planners, transportation and housing organizations and academia - will be engaged in the planning and implementation of active design features. PHAC's investment in the project will support community engagement strategies and bring together multi-sectoral stakeholders to help incorporate active design features into the housing site designs.


"The neighbourhoods where we live, learn, work and play are an important foundation for healthy living. Investing in the University of Alberta's Housing for Health initiative is just one of the ways the Government of Canada is working with partners on innovative projects to encourage healthy living and to help prevent chronic diseases by addressing common risk factors. By working with developers at the design stage, we have a great opportunity to support built environment projects that can have positive long-term impacts on the health and well-being of Canadians."

The Honourable Amarjeet Sohi
Minister of Natural Resources

"Cities and communities can be designed and built to set people up for success so that healthy choices are the easier choices. The University of Alberta's Housing for Health project is an example of how we can address chronic disease risk factors, like sedentary behaviour and unhealthy eating, by designing communities and neighbourhoods to serve as a foundation for healthy living."

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

"In the 19th and early 20th centuries, we conquered previous infectious disease epidemics such as cholera, through community planning and design efforts to create more supportive environments, like improving sanitation and clean water. Today, conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, depression and anxiety, and unhealthy aging are the main causes of death, disability and/or rapidly rising health-care costs in Canada. The environments in which we live, work, go to school and play, are not supportive enough; however through the Housing for Health project we have the opportunity to address this issue. Studies show that when healthy choices are easier to make through a supportive environment, people will be more successful in improving their health. Other cities that have taken a comprehensive environmental approach to support people's ability to be healthy, have shown that it can increase life expectancy and reverse longstanding trends like rising childhood obesity. "

Dr. Karen Lee
Housing for Health Project Director, University of Alberta

Quick facts

  • PHAC is investing $4.4 million over five years in the Housing for Health project through its Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention - Multi-Sectoral Partnerships program.

  • The built environment includes the buildings, parks, schools, road systems, and other infrastructure that we encounter in every day in our physical surroundings.

  • Researchers have found evidence that people who live in communities with mixed land use (e.g., with stores in walking distance of homes), well-connected street networks, and high residential density are more active than those who live in communities designed for automobiles.

Associated links


Thierry Bélair
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada

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