Obesity is a public health problem rooted in a range of causes and associated with individual characteristics that are influenced by environmental factors including urban planning. That explains why the prevalence of this chronic disease varies significantly from city to city and even neighborhood to neighborhood within the same city.
The creation of living environments designed with obesity prevention in mind therefore constitutes a promising avenue to reduce social and spatial inequalities in health. But urban planners and other key public health stakeholders involved in territorial planning don’t always have access to scientific data linking the life trajectories of individuals and their overall health.
Alexandre Lebel, associate professor in the École supérieure d’aménagement du territoire et de développement régional at Université Laval and population health researcher, set out to forge ties with these decision makers. Along with his colleagues in the PIRAMIDES research program, he’s led several health impact assessments (HIAs) that integrate public health concerns into the urban planning process and provide practical recommendations based on scientific knowledge.
Building on this method, which is recognized by the World Health Organization and in line with one of the key measures in the Québec government’s 2022–2025 health prevention policy, the Politique gouvernementale de prévention en santé, development plans now account for the social determinants of health related to the physical environment. Because they come into play when the plans are being drawn up and not after the fact, HIAs could ensure the right information is communicated to the right people, at the right time.
Sources and further information (in French)