About Healthy Active By Design
The Heart Foundation is dedicated to fighting the single biggest killer of Australians – heart disease. For over 50 years, we’ve led the battle to save lives and improve the heart health of all Australians. Our sights are set on a world where people don’t suffer or die prematurely because of heart disease.
Right now, 1.4 million Australians are living with heart disease, and each year more than 55,000 Australians suffer a heart attack. We work hard to change this.
The Heart Foundation is dedicated to making a real difference to the heart health of Australians. Every day, our work includes:
- funding world-class cardiovascular research
- guiding health and other professionals on preventing and treating heart disease
- educating Australians about making healthy choices
- supporting people living with heart conditions
- advocating to government and industry to improve heart health in Australia.
We want to make it easier for Australians to lead heart-healthy lives. We seek to advance policy, environment and behaviour changes to help provide every Australian with opportunities to be healthy and active across the lifespan, in the places they live, work, and play. For more detailed information on the Heart Foundation’s work, visit our website.
A movement for movement
We know we all need to Move More and Sit Less and yet trying to find time and motivation to get moving is becoming increasingly difficult in our busy lives and most Australians aren’t getting the physical activity they need. This can shorten life expectancy and increase the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Alarmingly, in 2014/15, two in every three (66%) of adult Australians aged over 15 did very little or no exercise at all (1).
Insufficient physical activity is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality and is on the rise in many countries, adding to the burden of non-communicable diseases and affecting general health worldwide. People who are insufficiently active have a 20% to 30% increased risk of death compared to people who are sufficiently active (2). Regular physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure,
diabetes, breast and colon cancer, and depression. It also modifies other important risk factors such as blood cholesterol and overweight and obesity. Increasing population levels of physical activity is an important public health objective and we need strategic approaches to health promotion and illness prevention.
The Heart Foundation is working to get Australians moving by supporting individual behaviour change as well as cultural/societal changes that encourage physical activity and a healthy diet, however, we cannot underestimate the role that our environment – both natural and built – can play on how much physical activity we do and on our health, including our likelihood of developing heart disease. It’s easier to be active if your local area:
- is close to shops, services, school, and jobs, so you can walk or cycle to them instead of driving
- has supportive infrastructure such as footpaths, road crossings, cycling paths and public transport
- Offers quality spaces that improve wellbeing – like plazas, green areas, open space and recreational facilities.
The Heart Foundation is dedicated to both raising awareness of the importance of a built environment that supports heart health and helping planners, developers and communities work towards creating healthier streets, buildings, towns and cities. We have developed evidence-based resources that provide an essential toolbox for those concerned with, or working in the creation of, liveable places and spaces.
The Heart Foundation works to create healthy neighborhoods that are planned to promote walking, cycling, physical activity and public life. Healthy and liveable neighbourhoods are places where people can easily walk, or cycle to schools, employment, sports facilities, shops, green spaces, parks, and public transport. This means the residents have opportunities to be socially connected and live in neighborhoods that provide health, economic and environmental benefits.
Our Healthy Active by Design website is a practical guide to address the need to build health into the design of our built environment. It seems obvious. The built form can support a healthy and physically active community and access to healthy food. In addition, neighbourhood design can positively impact levels of pedestrian activity, safety for cyclists, and use of public transport. So what are we waiting for?