The HAbD User Guide

This resource provides easy to use practical guidance and checklists that will support the design and construction of healthy and active communities. The website also provides the best available evidence relating to key design features, links to inspiring national and international examples and detailed high quality case studies. We believe this website will prove useful for: 


  1. Informing design choices when creating and preparing design and development proposals. 

  2. Assisting in assessing or evaluating applications and development proposals. 

  3. Providing a screening tool to evaluate proposals and inform town planning schemes and supporting policy. 

  4. Guiding strategic decisions and policy and assist in consultation and collaborative partnerships with stakeholders. 


  • Providing a list of questions developers and proponents can ask themselves across the development process, from concept to delivery. 
  • Identifying considerations with regards to healthy community design and provide a screening tool to help assess the impact of the proposal on health and wellbeing. 
  • Promoting the benefits of HAbD with best practice case studies. 


  • Providing a list of questions to be considered when assessing and making determinations on development and policy proposals. 
  • Providing guidance in assessing the impact of a proposal on health and wellbeing of the community and funding priorities.   
  • Providing a screening tool to evaluate proposals and inform town planning schemes and decisions. 


  • Guiding strategic decisions and policy including public health planning and assist in consultation with stakeholders. 
  • Identifying considerations with regards to healthy community design and set out a summary of evidence and related current research, both nationally and overseas. 


  • Providing a screening tool to evaluate proposals and assist in the preparation and review of strategic community/corporate business plans. 
  • Evaluating the impact of projects and policy initiatives on health and physical activity. 


  • Guiding strategic decisions on infrastructure development and funding priorities and assist in consultation with stakeholders. 


  • Guiding comments and responses to community development and policy proposals out for public comment. 
  • Facilitating consultation at public meetings or other community forums where proposals are under consideration for community infrastructure, land use planning and development. 
  • Informing the community on the opportunities to be healthy and active in their community with best practice case studies. 

1. Design Features and Guide 

Research has identified specific design features that support healthy and active living. This section of the Healthy Active by Design (HAbD) website identifies what the design features are and how they support active living.  Where relevant, access to healthy fresh food has been incorporated into the design features.  The Heart Foundation has worked closely across sectors in preparation of the resource. Participants have requested research and evidence that demonstrates the importance of the design feature. This section provides a useful summary of the best evidence available. 

In addition,a design guide has been prepared. The design guide provides a list of objectives, principles and considerations anyone involved in the shaping of cities or health can ask themselves when creating, preparing and assessing their surrounds helping to assess the impact on health and wellbeing.  

Visit Design Features 

2. Case Studies 

In response to participants’ requests high quality local case studies have been prepared to demonstrate how healthy and active living can be supported in our built environment. As new projects come online this resource will be updated to provide the most current initiatives. 

Visit Case Studies

3. News & Media 

Useful links to the latest news and media relating to healthy communities from across the world. 

Visit News & Media

4. Why is HAbD needed? 

Current healthy statistics reinforce the need for strategic approaches to health promotion and illness prevention. Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are the leading cause of mortality in the world.  In 20128, chronic disease deaths accounted for 65.5% of all deaths worldwide1.   

Right now, 1.4 million Australians are living with heart disease, and each year more than 55,000 Australians suffer a heart attack. Many of these deaths are the result of physical inactivity and obesity.  In 2011/12, five million Australian adults were overweight, this is more than a third (35%).  Compared to 1995, the proportion of Australians that are obese in 2012 has increased by 47%2.As a result of these alarming statistics, chronic disease management is considered a public health priority in Australia.  

5. Link between health and the built environment 

Research shows that the way we design and build our communities can impact our health. Healthy and active lifestyles can be encouraged by the way we design our streets, parks, recreational facilities and where we locate our homes, schools and retail areas. 

This has been verified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the 2014 'Global status report on noncommunicable diseases' and ‘GLOBAL ACTION PLAN FOR THE PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASES 2013-2020’. WHO identified the need to address the prevalence of chronic diseases in our communities via the following proposed policy options: 

  • Adopt and implement national guidelines on physical activity for health. 
  • Consider establishing a multi-sectoral committee or similar body to provide strategic leadership and coordination. 
  • Develop appropriate partnerships and engage all stakeholders, across government, NGOs and civil society and economic operators, in actively and appropriately implementing actions aimed at increasing physical activity across all ages.  
  • Develop policy measures in cooperation with relevant sectors to promote physical activity through activities of daily living, including through “active transport,” recreation, leisure and sport, for example:
  • National and subnational urban planning and transport policies to improve the accessibility, acceptability and safety of, and supportive infrastructure for, walking and cycling. 
  • Improved provision of quality physical education in educational settings (from infant years to tertiary level) including opportunities for physical activity before, during and after the formal school day. 
  • Actions to support and encourage “physical activity for all” initiatives for all ages. 
  • Creation and preservation of built and natural environments which support physical activity in schools, universities, workplaces, clinics and hospitals, and in the wider community, with a particular focus on providing infrastructure to support active transport i.e. walking and cycling, active recreation and play, and participation in sports. 
  • Promotion of community involvement in implementing local actions aimed at increasing physical activity. 
  • Conduct evidence-informed public campaigns through mass media, social media and at the community level and social marketing initiatives to inform and motivate adults and young people about the benefits of physical activity and to facilitate healthy behaviours.  
  • Encourage the evaluation of actions aimed at increasing physical activity, to contribute to the development of an evidence base of effective and cost-effective actions. 

The HAbD website is a practical guide to address the need to change the design of our built environment. The built form can be designed to support a healthy and physically active community by providing spaces for recreational physical activity and considering other health factors such as access to healthy food. In addition, the design of a place can positively impact levels of pedestrian activity, the willingness for more members of the community to cycle, and improve usage levels of public transport. 

6. What is the HAbD Website? 

The HAbD website is part of an ongoing program of work led by the Heart Foundation to create environments that support healthy and active living. The website provides a platform for you stay up to date, review innovative case-studies and includes opportunities to receive regular communication, learn from your peers through information sharing, networks and partnership building and interactive training. 

The HAbD website supports the community having opportunities to be active every day, either through recreation or active transport, such as cycling or walking, to local facilities and destinations.  This supports Australians to be sufficiently active in line with the National Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour  Guidelines for Australia which outline the minimum levels of physical activity required to gain a health benefit and ways to incorporate incidental physical activity into everyday life. The website also aims to emphasise opportunities for access to healthy food a key consideration. This website along with the Heart Foundation’s work in complementary active living programs can help influence the social and political framework for the adoption of healthy lifestyles and facilitate healthy choices.