State of health
Nourishment is essential to good health. A growing body of population-based epidemiological evidence has shown the importance of nourishment in preventing and controlling noncommunicable diseases as well as preventable chronic diseases6. At the same time, changes in the production and distribution of food have meant that highly processed and sugar rich foods are in greater supply. The WHO estimates that globally, most people do not consume the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables, and this is leading to over 1.7 million deaths each year7.
‘Food Deserts’ are regions that have lessened access to healthy food, broadly due to socio-economic factors such as income or location. People who live in regions categorised as ‘food deserts’ are recognised as being at a higher risk of diet-related conditions, such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease8. Sustainable urban planning and operational building policies, to support local communities, can be helpful factors in addressing this socio-economic health issue.
Hydration is of fundamental importance to health and wellbeing as without water humans can survive only for days9. Water comprises of 75% body weight in infants to 55% in elderly people and is essential for cellular homeostasis and life10. Within the built environment, our priority must be to maintain a safe and sustainable supply of clean water, as outlined in Principle 1.2, consumed in necessary quantities to maintain human health and maximise wellbeing. The Institute of Medicine recommends a daily water consumption of approximately 2.7 L for women and 3.7 L for men11.
The WHO has demonstrated the link between social interaction and health12. Social connection improves physical health and psychological wellbeing, whereas loneliness is associated with a 26% increase in the risk of premature mortality13. Studies have suggested that strong social connections lead to a 50% increased chance of longevity and people who feel more connected to others have lower rates of anxiety and depression14. Our buildings and communities can be designed in a way that fosters social interaction15.
The built environment actively contributes to the improvement of nutrition, hydration and social connectivity of building occupants and people in the local community, where possible, by supporting healthy food choices and hydration practices, and providing infrastructure for positive social engagement.
Strategies across the lifecycle
Communal dining facilities and scheduled meal breaks in workplaces to foster interaction
Urban planning to foster inclusiveness and social engagement with central shared areas
Infrastructure to ensure clean water provision (see Principle 1.2)
The promotion and provision of healthy food options (fruits, vegetables, whole grains)
Provision of food preparation areas (refrigeration, heating, storage and utensils)
Onsite production of food
Buildings operating in less developed communities must strive to address food deserts by increase the availability of healthy food to low-income population
Provision of fresh clean water and encouraging hydration
Universal benchmarks for building and urban design specialists to encourage nutrition, hydration and social connectivity on site are not widely available. Practitioners are encouraged to incorporate strategies into projects on a bespoke basis, following local examples where possible.
The wider lifestyle factors that can contribute to reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases and can be implemented at regional policy level are outlined through the Partnership for Healthy Cities principles: https://partnershipforhealthycities.bloomberg.org/.