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Public Repository to Engage Community and Enhance Design Equity


This page can help you better understand key terms and contextual information related to the role of public health and equity in design.

Answer questions like:

What's a Demographic Factor?

Social metrics about income, education, employment and age.

What's an Exposure?

Scientific metrics regarding the quality of the environment and potential vulnerability to negative conditions

What's an Outcome?

Health metrics regarding the prevalence of specific conditions.

Browse by Exposures:

Wildfire and Wildfire Smoke
Wildfire is an unplanned, uncontrolled fire burning in a natural area. Wildfires can directly cause immediate human casualties and displacement of affected communities, and indirectly produce high levels of air pollution, which can influence the respiratory and cardiovascular health of the immediate community and distant regions, alike.
Waste Proximity
Waste proximity indicates the distance and density of facilities managing chemicals that pose risk to our health and ecosystems. Such facilities may introduce pollutants beyond their fence line, meaning that nearby communities breathe more contaminated air, contact more contaminated soil and surface water, and drink compromised water.
Walkability measures how well the design of a neighborhood enables pedestrian mobility. When daily errands (e.g., school, work, transit) are walkable, it encourages us to be physically active and reduces our reliance on cars; thereby improving our physical health and reducing air pollution and carbon emissions.
Unemployed Population
Traffic Proximity
Traffic proximity indicates the distance and density of roadways with the potential to negatively impact health. Due to emissions from automobiles and heavy traffic noise pollution, communities proximal to traffic may breathe more polluted air, contact more contaminated soil, and experience more cognitive stress.
Total Number of Households
Social Vulnerability
Rent Burden
Regular Check Up
Population Under 5 Years Old
Population Over 65 Years Old
Physical Inactivity
Physical inactivity refers to insufficient engagement in regular exercise. Providing safe spaces for physical activity or improving the walkability of a neighborhood may increase a community’s physical activity, which in turn can decrease risks of chronic conditions and improve mental health outcomes.
Physical Disability
A physical disability is any condition that impairs a person’s ability to perform daily physical tasks. Inclusive design should be integrated in all spaces to create welcoming environments for everyone, regardless of physical ability. More accessible spaces may help to improve mental health outcomes and chronic conditions experienced by people with physical disabilities.
Particulate Matter
PM2.5 is a component of air pollution that measures small airborne particles. These particles are emitted from natural and manmade sources and infiltrate indoors through cracks in the building envelope. Breathing PM2.5 poses respiratory and cardiovascular health risks, as its small size allows it to travel deep into the lungs and bloodstream.
Ground-level ozone is a harmful air pollutant formed by chemical reactions between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight. Breathing ground-level ozone contributes to acute and chronic respiratory problems and increased concentration of green-house gasses in the lower atmosphere.
Owns a Computer
Obesity is a medical term for an exceedance of recommended body mass index (BMI). Communities without safe spaces for physical activity and limited access to fresh food may have higher rates of obesity, which in turn increases risks of chronic conditions and poorer mental health outcomes.
Not Enough Sleep Hours
Insufficient sleep is associated with numerous chronic conditions, as well as poor mental health outcomes. The built environment can help to mitigate internal and external stressors, including chronic stress, physical inactivity, and noise pollution, that are all associated with insufficient quantity and quality of sleep.
Noise Pollution
Noise pollution refers to exposure to a disturbing level of sound that interferes with normal activities or disrupts/diminishes quality of life. While many may consider noise to be just an annoyance, prolonged exposure can disturb our sleep, aggravate stress-related ailments, and contribute to cognitive and psychological issues.
Median Income
Linguistic Isolation
Less Than High School Education
Lack of Park Access
Lack of Insurance
Income Gini-Index
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood pushing against blood vessels is consistently too high. Certain environmental and behavioral factors help to maintain healthy blood pressure and can be promoted by the built environment (e.g., spaces for physical activity, access to fresh foods, spaces for recuperation).
Greenness (NDVI)
Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) measures the quantity of green vegetation in a spatial region. Experiencing green spaces has many health benefits, including increasing physical activity and improving mental health, as well as improving air quality and mitigating the urban heat island effect.
Frequent Physical Distress
Those experiencing frequent physical distress are more likely to have a chronic condition and may not be able to engaging in everyday activities. More inclusive spaces that maximize accessibility and provide areas for rest may help to improve both the mental and physical comfort of people living with physical distress.
Frequent Mental Distress
Frequent mental distress refers to a state of ongoing psychological hardship, which can impact daily functioning and overall well-being. The built environment may promote positive mental health through daylighting, biophilic design, areas for recuperation, etc., which, in turn may improve sleep, nutrition, and physical activity.
Food Insecurity
Flooding occurs along the coast and along riverbanks due storm events or anthropogenic climate change trends. Flooding of homes or other community structures impact both our physical and mental health through mold growth, accelerated spread of infectious disease, disruption of community, and displacement of people.
Extreme Heat
Extreme heat occurs when exceptionally hot and humid weather persists for more than two days and exceed the historical norms for a region. These extreme heat events put enormous stress on our bodies, which may directly cause heat stroke or heat stress and indirectly exacerbate chronic conditions.
Drought describes abnormally dry weather conditions for a region. Due to the great influence of water in the environment and the socio-economic role of water, the health impacts of droughts span from chronic disease aggravation to infectious disease augmentation, to mental and societal unrest.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when the body cannot produce or process insulin. A variety of environmental and behavioral factors increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and may be influenced by our built environment (e.g., physical activity, access to fresh foods, air quality).
Coronary Heart Disease
Coronary Heart Disease causes reduced blood flow to the heart and is the leading cause of death in the US. There are a variety of behavioral choices that increase risk of coronary heart disease and may be influenced by our built environment (e.g., physical activity, unhealthy diet).
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) causes airflow blockages and issues with breathing. Tobacco smoking is the main cause of COPD deaths, however environmental exposures also contribute to cases. Interior spaces can filter and ventilate air to reduce concentrations of pollution associated with COPD.
Cancer is a chronic disease that often causes significant morbidity and sometimes, mortality. Most cancers develop due to the exposure of several environmental, genetic, and behavioral factors. Known and suspected carcinogens should avoid being introduced to the built environment in an effort to lessen cancer-contributing exposures.
Asthma is a chronic condition in which a person’s airways become inflamed, making it difficult to breath. This can be exacerbated by a variety of environmental exposures, such as air pollution, mold, or volatile organic compounds. Interior spaces can filter and ventilate air and limit harsh chemical use to reduce exposures.