Background Influence

Neighborhood design, land use

Parent construct: Physical environment

Many poor urban neighborhoods have great potential to become the most healthy and sustainable places in the nation. Recent research on the design of neighborhoods shows that people benefit from living in neighborhoods made up of a mix of residential, commercial, and business activities, with housing that facilitates social interactions, and that make walking from home to work and shopping easy.

Such neighborhoods encourage people to walk more, to get to know their neighbors, and to participate in neighborhood activities. Such neighborhoods have lower levels of obesity and greater social contact and do a better job of guiding the prosocial behavior of young people. 1 These neighborhoods are also more sustainable; they use less energy.

Many high-poverty neighborhoods have problems with abandoned and decaying buildings and other signs of physical disorder. But they can more readily be transformed into mixed-used neighborhoods than can sprawling suburban neighborhoods, where homes are far removed from shopping and workplaces. In these inner city neighborhoods, vacant lots can be become small parks. Some abandoned buildings can become business or commercial places. The process of transforming the neighborhood can help to build social cohesion as park development and other neighborhood-building activities nurture cooperative efforts of residents.

Related Interventions



  1. Biglan, A., & Hinds, E. (2009). Evolving prosocial and sustainable neighborhoods and communities. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 5(1), 169-196.