Built Environment

Built Environment Work Group (BEWG)

The Built Environment Workgroup (BEWG) is passionate about the impact the built environment can have on health equity and population health.

What do we mean by, “The Built Environment?”

The built environment refers to anything in our physical environment that is human-created. In addition to things like buildings, parks and neighbourhoods, it includes land use patterns, transportation systems and design features of communities (Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance of Canada, 2006). Research shows that the built environments in which we live, work and play have a direct impact on our health.

Topics can include:

  • Healthy community design and land use planning (i.e., healthy complete communities)
  • Affordable housing within walkable and transit supportive communities
  • Healthy environments
  • Climate change impacts, mitigation, and adaptation
  • Promotion green space
  • Transportation: Active Transportation and Transit
  • Pedestrian, cyclist, and motorist safety

What we do

The BEWG seeks to influence provincial policy and contribute to provincial initiatives that will support public health efforts at a local level to improve the built environment.

Who we are

BEWG consists of diverse public health professionals working on health and the built environment.  Below is a listing of the positions and the organizations who volunteer on our Work Group.

Positions Organizations
  • Advisor
  • Associate Medical Officer of Health
  • Environmental Health and Knowledge Translation Specialist
  • Environmental Health Specialist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Health Promoter
  • Policy Advisor
  • Manager of Healthy Environments
  • Medical Officer of Health
  • Program Development Officer & Planner
  • Public Health Inspector
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Urban Planner
  • Local Public Health Units
    1. Algoma Public Health Grey Bruce Public Health
    2. Brant County Health Unit
    3. Durham Region Health Department
    4. Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge District Health Unit
    5. Halton Region Health Department
    6. Hastings Prince Edward Public Health
    7. Leeds, Grenville & Lanark Health Unit
    8. Northwestern Health Unit
    9. Ottawa Public Health
    10. Peel Public Health
    11. Peterborough Public Health
    12. Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit
    13. Southwestern Public Health
    14. Toronto Public Health
    15. Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph
    16. York Region Public Health
  • National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health
  • Ontario Public Health Association
  • Public Health Ontario
  • Queen’s University

Recent Accomplishments (Jan 2019 – Nov 2019)

Affordable Housing

  • Learn more about Public Health Action on Housing Needs here

Transportation and Health

  • Environmental Assessment Webinars
    • Offered a four part webinar series about how public health can effectively engage in the process (Oct 24, 2018; Dec 11, 2018; Feb 28, 2019; and Jun 13, 2019)
  • Greater Toronto Area West Transportation Corridor Route Planning and Environmental Assessment Study
  • Wrote a letter requesting a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) (Sept 6, 2019)
  • Learn more about Public Health and Transportation here

Land Use Planning and Built Environment

  • Public Health and Planning 101 online course
    • Since June 2016, over 1500 people have completed the course
    • Learn more about Public Health and Planning 101 here
  • LDCP Cycle 5 Project: Provincial framework for healthy community design (lead by SMDHU).
    • Several OPHA BEWG members were on their advisory committee
  • Provincial Bill 66
    • Submitted written comments on the advocating that the government not proceed with schedule 10, which would give municipalities the power to open up parts of the Greenbelt and ignore important regulations related to areas such as the Clean Water Act. (Jan 20, 2019)
    • The Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing indicated that the government “has listened to the concerns raised by MPPs, municipalities and stakeholders with regards to Schedule 10 of Bill 66 and when the legislature returns in February, we will not proceed with Schedule 10 of the Bill.”
  • Amendment 1 for The Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe
    • Attended two stakeholder meetings and were invited to submit written comments (Feb 28, 2019)
  • Built Environment Indicators
    • Collaborated with Ontario Healthy Communities Coalition (OHCC) on a webinar (Feb 12, 2019)
  • Healthy Neighbourhoods Data Challenge
    • Presented on a panel at MaRS Discovery District in Toronto for the launch of the in partnership with the PHAC (Jun 6, 2019)
  • Letter to Minister Elliott about the importance of the Built Environment and Health (Jun 13, 2019)
  • Provincial Policy Statement Review
    • Submitted comments jointly with the Health Equity Work Group, Healthy Environments Work Group and the Affordable Housing Subgroup (Oct 21, 2019)

Three ways to get involved:

1.Built Environment Work Group

  • Lead by two co-chairs and comprised of OPHA members working on the built environment and health.
  • Meets for 2 hours by teleconference in February, June, and September. We also meet in person for one day in November around the time of the OPHA Fall Forum.
  • Regularly seeks to influence provincial policy and initiatives, often writing letters as opportunities arise.
  • Terms of Reference

2.Task Groups

  • Lead by a BEWG member, and comprised of any volunteer (work group member or not) who is willing to help complete the work of the task group.
  • Form based on interest, need, and capacity.
  • Meets as needed to accomplish tasks (more frequent than work group meetings).

3.Built Environment Listserv

  • A great option if you want to ask questions and learn from others.
  • We have over 300 members.
  • Join the Listserv here.

Interested In getting involved?

If you are interested in getting involved or have questions, contact the co-chairs:

Nicholas Brandon


Faiza Waheed