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The built environment and injury

The built environment plays a significant role in our daily lives, influencing our behaviours, safety and overall wellbeing. In recent years, more attention has focused on the built environment and its relationship with injury.

Depending on its design features, it can act as a protective or risk factor for injury. A well-designed built environment can help reduce the risk of injury. Access to connected streets and walkable communities can help increase road safety and promote participation in active travel. Active travel such as walking, cycling or using public transport encourages participation in physical activity, reducing the risk of falls in older adults with transport-related injuries and improving overall health and wellbeing.

Prioritising design features such as separated bike lanes, pedestrian paths, crossings, and speed limit reductions can improve safety and encourage active transport. Additionally, access to more green spaces such as parks and improved public transport connectivity to recreational and community centres can promote social connection and exercise. 

In contrast, poorly designed environments can increase the risk of many injury types, such as falls, assault, transport and alcohol-related injuries.

Neighbourhoods with a high density of liquor stores result in more accessible access to alcohol, which can increase the risk of alcohol-related injuries. Policies on reducing the availability of alcohol through restricting liquor outlet density and size or restriction of alcohol advertisement can be effective strategies to reduce the limit of exposure of alcohol within the area, therefore reducing alcohol-related injury.

Environments high in crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour can increase the risk of assault injuries, impacting individuals’ feelings of safety and contributing to poorer mental health.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) can help to reduce crime and increase people’s perception of safety and security in a neighbourhood. The CPTED provides four principles to prevent crime: surveillance, territorial definition, access control and space management.

Given these factors, injury prevention initiatives should consider the relationship between elements of the built environment and the risk of injury.

To help plan and implement injury prevention activities in your community, access the Know Injury Outdoor Recreation and Leisure Sports Local Government Safety Toolkit.

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