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Rural Health Information Hub

Built Environment

The built environment of a rural community, which includes the physical environment, infrastructure, housing, streets, and transportation systems, can influence early childhood health promotion efforts.

Programs designed to target specific aspects of the built environment may help improve children's health and have unique implementation considerations. Programs focused on improving housing quality may work to prevent lead poisoning in homes which can result in serious health and developmental issues for children. Programs to prevent childhood lead exposure will need to consider approaches that work best inside the home.

Programs focused on improving conditions to help children get more physical activity, such as through walking and biking, will need to develop strategies for working with community stakeholders to make changes. The National Complete Streets Coalition provides information and considerations for rural communities to create streets that are safe for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders. Several guides, including the Small Town and Rural Design Guide and Rails to Trails Conservancy, assist with the planning and design of walking and biking paths. The Parks Build Community initiative demonstrates the value of parks to communities.

For more information about how the built environment can impact early childhood health and well-being in rural communities, see Improving Neighborhoods and the Built Environment in the Social Determinants of Health Toolkit. See the Rural Transportation Toolkit for specific considerations relevant to programs working to improve transportation access and infrastructure.

Resources to Learn More

Building Rural Environments for Active Living
Discusses the impact of a built environment that provides opportunities for physical activity outdoors. Offers suggestions for communities to assess and improve their existing environment and support active living.
Author(s): Toliver, Z.
Organization(s): Rural Health Information Hub
Citation: Rural Monitor
Date: 7/2016

Implementation Resource Guide
Outlines considerations for planning and implementing changes to the built environment to increase opportunities for physical activity.
Organization(s): Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC)
Date: 1/2018