GWI Previews Its Wellness Policy Toolkit on the Built Environment 

At the Wellness Real Estate Symposium held May 2 in Manhattan, 35-plus experts took the stage to discuss the future of “building well.” GWI researchers previewed their Wellness Policy Toolkit: The Built Environment. Because the $275 billion wellness real estate market is out of reach for the vast majority of people, GWI presented the case for why government policy actions to create healthier housing and communities is now crucial. In fact, the researchers argued that of all of the seven domains of wellness policy—from healthy food to exercise—actions that create a healthier built environment are the most important. One, because it shapes the entire wellness ecosystem for those with the highest risk of poor health and the least access to wellness. And two, because wellness in the built environment can tackle so many aspects of our wellbeing: physical, mental, environmental, social…and even spiritual.  

 Read more for the six policy actions that could powerfully impact people’s health and wellbeing through the built environment:  

The GWI proposes six policy action areas that can powerfully affect people’s health and wellness through the built environment:  

 1) Reduce environmental health risks (from air pollution to toxins) 

2) Encourage physical activity 

3) Build healthier food environments 

4) Improve mental wellness 

5) Facilitate social connections 

6) Support healthy behaviors with digital infrastructure. 

 The presentation covered how:  

  • Physical inactivity is a health crisis with enormous human and economic costs. To change this, policymakers can: 1) design cities, neighborhoods and buildings to facilitate natural movement, active transit, and recreational physical activity, and use urban/regional planning to encourage walking and cycling as transport; 2) incorporate active design into real estate developments; 3) create more free and accessible public spaces for outdoor recreation and exercise. 
  • With a skyrocketing mental health crisis, policymakers can create public spaces that increase contact with nature (which cannot be emphasized enough), lower stress, and inspire. They should focus on: 1) increasing access to public green spaces, urban sanctuaries, and biophilic design; 2) creating environments that promote better sleep, rest and stress reduction (tackling noise and light pollution); and 3) creating spaces that inspire. 
  • The world is experiencing an unprecedented loneliness epidemic and policy moves drive meaningful social connections. Actions to take: 1) use transportation infrastructure to connect people; 2) provide ample, attractive, accessible and activated public spaces; 3) use prosocial design features in housing; and 4) invest in residential spaces for multigenerational living (as the young and old are the loneliest).  

“I see the built environment as the most important wellness policy focus because it uniquely addresses so many aspects of our wellness, from the physical, to the mental, to the social, and even spiritual.” Ophelia Yeung  

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