Environmental factors such as biological/chemical contamination, quality and availability of man-made structures, transportation emissions, and the physical characteristics of neighborhoods can all affect health. Research suggests that the character of our physical environment can impact not only the quality of the air we breathe or water we drink, but also, our opportunities for physical activity and interaction with our neighbors.
Air and water pollution are the two most common environmental factors that can impair health and lead to increased respiratory disease, gastrointestinal disorders, and other illnesses such as asthma, chronic lower respiratory disease, and cancer. Environmental quality can also impact the likelihood of other conditions and diseases.
The built environment refers to human-made (versus natural) resources and infrastructure designed to support human activity, such as buildings, roads, parks, and other amenities. The characteristics of the built environment can affect the health of residents in multiple ways. For example, the variety, price, and availability of healthy foods in the local environment can play a role in whether those foods are consumed. Additionally, the availability of recreational facilities, sidewalks, and bike lanes can influence individuals' and communities' choices to engage in physical activity. The character of a community's built environment can impact the likelihood of a number of conditions and diseases.