Built environment

27 July 2021

Housing and Social Inequalities in Health in Times of COVID-19: Strategies for Promoting Affordable Quality Housing

The COVID-19 pandemic and the preventive and control measures put in place to protect against the associated health risk have highlighted existing social inequalities in health. The population was asked to spend more time at home to minimize the risk of coming into contact with the virus, which prompted the scientific community to examine the impact of housing conditions during the health crisis. Thus, it was observed that:

  • Housing, including its surrounding environment, is an important determinant of health, wellbeing and quality of life;
  • Living in unhealthy, unsafe or overcrowded housing can have negative effects on physical and mental health, especially during periods of confinement;
  • Safe and healthy housing can act as a protective factor against the transmission of COVID-19;
  • Disadvantaged populations that are less well housed are less well protected from COVID-19 during periods of confinement;
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, soc…
Centre de référence sur l'environnement bâti et la santé
10 July 2020

COVID-19: Safe Use of Urban Parks and Green Spaces During Gradual Lockdown Lifting

The purpose of this document is to provide guidelines to support the use of parks and green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. It reviews the main health benefits of green spaces and the basic principles to be respected to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in these areas. The document also presents promising initiatives put forward by municipalities in Québec, Canada and elsewhere in the world aimed at promoting the safe and optimal use of parks and green spaces. Finally, some relevant resources that can support the development of parks and green spaces by facilitating consideration of elements that are key to achieving this aim are listed.


  • It is essential to make parks and green spaces accessible to the public, especially in the context of a pandemic lockdown, since they represent one of the few safe places where people can engage in a variety of physical and social activities.
  • Parks and green spaces improve many dimensions of phys…
27 September 2018

Best Spatial Planning Practices to Prevent the Effects of Environmental Noise on Health and Quality of Life

  • There are many sources of noise, which increase the difficulty of mitigating the effects. Some examples are noise from road and air traffic, as well as rail noise, noise from port (harbor) facilities or from construction sites.
  • Land-use planning and management are some effective and key noise control and mitigation measures. These measures are planned and implemented by regional county municipalities (RCM), municipalities and proponents.
  • There are various best environmental noise mitigation practices, from active transportation to street design, by way of the orientation of buildings and inner rooms, not to mention noise barriers and the addition of plants arranged in an optimal manner. Although the effectiveness of several of these measures has been quantified, they are poorly known.
  • Since environmental noise has harmful effects on people’s physical and psycho-social health and quality of life, applying these solutions will help properly protect s…
9 May 2017

Making the man-made environment favourable for safe bike-riding!

Whether for recreation or transportation, safe bike-riding is the result of interactions between individuals’ and environments’ characteristics, including natural elements, as well as man-made and developed elements. This TOPO’s main objective is to present the results of scientific writings concerning the association between the man-made environment, bike-riding and cyclist safety.

Some elements of the man-made environment promote safe bike-riding and thereby contribute to maximizing the physical activity of bike-riding for transportation and recreation, while minimizing the risk of cyclist injuries. These elements and interventions are:

  • Reducing the speed and volume of motorized traffic using various traffic-calming measures;
  • Physically separating motorized traffic from bike-riding traffic (e.g., bicycle paths built into the road right-of-way);
  • Reconfiguring the road to give cyclists more space (e.g., bicycle paths built into the road right…
13 October 2015

The Food Environment Around Public Schools and the Consumption of Junk Food for Lunch by Québec Secondary School Students

  • In Québec, more than half (52%) of secondary school students had not eaten junk food for lunch during the week preceding the study, while a little less than half (48%) had eaten junk food for lunch one or more times.
  • Close to 40% of students in Québec public secondary schools have access to at least two fast-food restaurants within 750 metres.
  • Consumption of junk food two or more times per week is associated with obesity and other negative health measures among young people.
  • The proportions of young people consuming junk food two or more times per week are significantly higher in schools with two (27%) or three (26%) fast-food restaurants within a 750-metre radius than in those with only one (19%) or none (19%).
  • Other factors also influence the consumption of junk food among Québec students attending public schools: being a boy, being in a family with shared custody, having parents with no more than or no secondary school diploma or being…
5 November 2014

The Built Environment Around Schools and the Lifestyle Habits of Young People: State of Knowledge and Québec Overview

Highlights :

  • Most scientific studies show meaningful connections between the characteristics of the built environment and the eating habits, physical activity and body weight of young people.
  • The factor that appears to be most closely associated with students' weight and eating habits is the density of convenience stores and fast food restaurants in the vicinity of the school.
  • The characteristics of the built environment that have the greatest influence on physical activity are accessibility to recreational facilities and, to a lesser extent, the walkability of the neighbourhood.
  • Just over half (58.9%) of public schools in Québec are located less than 750 metres from a fast food restaurant.
  • Close to two-thirds (63.6%) of public schools have at least one convenience store within a radius of 750 metres.
  • Half (51.2%) of public schools have at least one recreational facility less than 750 metres away.
7 July 2014

Road Diets: Healthier Pubic Ways

This briefing note introduces the road diet, an engineering technique that reallocates space on a street or road for other uses when they are over-built and have excess lanes. In what follows, we will present a definition, some study results and practical implementation considerations for road diets.

When applied with consideration for contextual details, it is generally agreed that road diets provide significant safety benefits for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

With fewer and narrower lanes, the crossing distances for pedestrians are shorter, vehicle speeds come down to more appropriate levels, and protected space for cyclists is created. Road diets are most successful on streets carrying average annual daily traffic (AADT) of up to 12,000, but can be implemented on streets with higher volumes if intersections are studied and configured carefully.

Because much of the opposition to road diets stems from misconceptions about the function of the ro…

4 July 2014

Urban Traffic Calming and Health Inequalities: Effects and Implications for Practice

This document is the final one in a series of five documents based on a literature review published in 2011. The four previous documents compared the effects of two approaches to urban traffic calming – the black-spots approach and the area-wide approach – on four determinants of health: road safety, air quality, environmental noise and active transportation. In this document, we will examine the effects of these same two approaches (described below) on health inequalities. This will enable us to identify interventions that can effectively improve population health, overall, while also reducing health inequalities. Such interventions will be distinguished from those which act on only one or the other of these dimensions.

We will begin with a brief discussion of how health inequalities are conceptualized, followed by a few Canadian examples of health inequalities associated with, among other things, past and current transportation policies. This will be followed by a summary…

11 March 2014

The Built Environment and Physical Activity: Data Collection Tools to Support Intervention

Physical activity and sedentary living are important public health issues. Several studies have revealed links between various features of the built environment and physical activity. In order to develop a profile, better understand the impacts of built environment features, and better direct interventions on the creation of built environments that are conducive to physical activity, using the best information available is essential. The aim of this TOPO is to outline the main methods for collecting this information. Special attention is given to the data collection tools recently developed by the Québec public health network.

In this issue

  • A reminder of the links between the built environment and physical activity
  • Methods for defining the built environment and supporting public health stakeholders
  • And answers to the following questions :
    • What data collection methods can be used to characterize the built environment in an interventio…
9 October 2013

Safety of Elementary School Students Walking or Bicycling Between Home and School in Québec: Summary

This summary presents recommendations made by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec to foster safe active transportation between home and school among elementary school students. It is based on a review of the scientific literature.