Healthy Public Spaces – Principles, Obstacles, Tools, and Case Studies

creating healthy public spaces

One way to create healthy public spaces is to make them more comfortable for people to be in. This is one of the reasons that the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Gehl Institute studied the design of public spaces. It helped the Foundation determine which elements are essential to creating healthy public spaces. The next step in creating healthy public spaces is to incorporate those elements into the space itself. Read on to learn about principles, obstacles, tools, and case studies. There are also many other benefits to creating healthy public spaces.


The four core principles of healthy urban development are safety, inclusion, and sustainability. They support public spaces as a critical element of social and individual safety. Public spaces are important expressions of common natural resources and the foundation of community identity. Through these spaces, communities recognize themselves and strive to improve their spatial quality. These principles are based on the knowledge that all spaces should be safe and accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities. It is important to consider the diversity of users, such as children, senior citizens, and people with physical disabilities.

A diverse society is an opportunity for all people to contribute their talents, ideas, and skills to the greater good. Public spaces should be safe and accessible, and activities should promote good mental health. Public buildings should provide sufficient shelter, restrooms, and opportunities for play. A diverse community should also be vibrant, enabling people of all ages to feel connected to their community. The same applies to city parks, public buildings, and other open spaces.


Creating truly inclusive public spaces is not an easy task. Changing the aesthetics of a public space may drive up property values or drive away longtime residents. Even attempts to solicit community input do not always produce a diverse set of views. Finally, the work of practitioners often fails to address underlying structural and cultural inequities that create deep barriers to health. This article examines some of the key obstacles to creating healthy public spaces.

Lack of public space restricts social interaction, reduces economic activity, and contributes to increased health risks. Urbanization and population growth exacerbate these problems. In developing countries, investing in public spaces is an essential component to creating livable and equitable cities. The UN-Habitat’s “Placemaking and the Future of Cities” report points to the role of public spaces in urban environments. In addition to strengthening social cohesion and jumpstarting economic development, public spaces promote health and well-being, improve quality of life, and promote community development.


The Gehl Institute, in collaboration with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has developed a framework called the Inclusive Healthy Places Framework. It can be used to incorporate the principles of inclusion in public space projects and to evaluate the impacts of public space interventions on social and health factors. These frameworks aim to create a positive impact on the community and their economic development. These tools are helpful for city planners, designers, and community members to create healthy public spaces that are aesthetically pleasing and functional for all.

Various tools can be used to develop and improve healthy public spaces, including the Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook. Health impact assessment tools are a vital component of a community’s planning process and can be used to measure various built environment qualities and features that impact health. There are also transportation and parks health impact assessment tools that can be used to measure the health impacts of transportation on community members. It’s important to remember that these tools are meant to be used collaboratively with community members, policymakers, and stakeholders.

Case studies

Various factors influence the creation of healthy public spaces. Design, geographical, social, and economic aspects all play a role in this process. The most important characteristic of a public space is its flexibility, and this is what has determined the success of many successful projects, even before the pandemic hit the world. A quality project will not be affected by crises and can offer a pleasant perception to the community even if it is restricted in usage.

Creating truly inclusive public spaces is not always easy. New park designs may drive up property values and push out residents. Inequitable cultural and structural factors are often ignored. Even efforts to solicit input from community members rarely lead to diversity in the community. And practitioners seldom address structural and cultural inequities that can result in deep-seated barriers to public health. Therefore, it is critical to consider the needs of different groups when planning public spaces.