While placemaking is a tactic to create healthier communities, land use and zoning codes are strategic necessities. Suburban sprawl, and the development codes that allowed it, where unintentional health sentences. Compact walkable communities, with a healthy balance of residences, jobs, and services, do not result from land use regulations that consider sitting in a car for an hour plus to get to work everyday good planning. The healthiest places in the world are villages that afford employment, food access, education, recreation and socialization for their residents, all within walking and biking distance.
Our research indicates that increasing density, public transit, mixed uses, walking and biking infrastructure, and park and recreation facilities results not only in better physical and mental health, but also increases in economic vitality and social cohesiveness of neighborhoods. Having great places to walk and bike to, and socialize in, helps, but transformational changes in public health will only be achieved with whole systems approaches to environmental determinants of health.