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If we build it, who will come? The case for attention to equity in healthy community design
  1. Meridith Sones1,
  2. Daniel Fuller2,
  3. Yan Kestens3,
  4. Meghan Winters1
  1. 1 Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2 School of Human Kinetics and Recreation, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Saint John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
  3. 3 Department of Social and Preventive Medicine, Université de Montréal; Centre de recherche du CHUM, Montréal, Quebec, Canada
  1. Correspondence to Meridith Sones, Faculty of Health Sciences, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6, Canada; msones{at}

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The health and economic burden of physical inactivity is substantial and showing few signs of decline despite increased attention in policy agendas globally.1 To address this pandemic, we need to look beyond the health sector and reimagine our environments into places that get us moving more, and sitting less. Governments are investing in active transportation and sustainable development projects in light of their health, economic and environmental promise. But who stands to benefit from these investments, and in what context?

Physical inactivity is socially distributed, varying by socioeconomic status, gender, age, education and ethnicity.2 This trend is global and consequential; a recent study using smartphone data from over 700 000 people across 111 countries showed that inequities in physical activity are a better predictor of obesity prevalence than average physical activity.3 The built environment has the potential to either mitigate or exacerbate health inequities. Vulnerable populations often live in built environments lacking access to amenities that promote active mobility, such as transit and recreational facilities.4 In addition to supporting physical activity, designing safe environments that increase the active transportation of underserved groups may …

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