The Gehl Institute, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has published the Inclusive Healthy Places Framework after an 18 month study.

The Guiding Principles of Inclusive Healthy Places introduced in the report and Framework outline four distinct but interrelated areas in which public space intersects with health equity and inclusion:

Principle 1

Recognize community context by cultivating knowledge of the existing conditions, assets, and lived experiences that relate to health equity.

Principle 2

Support inclusion in the processes that shape public space by promoting civic trust, participation, and social capital.

Principle 3

Design and program public space for health equity by improving quality, enhancing access and safety, and inviting diversity.

Principle 4

Foster social resilience and capacity of local communities to engage with changes in place over time by promoting representation, agency, and stability.


Great public spaces allow for healthy public life—for social interactions both planned and spontaneous on sidewalks or at bus stops, in parks, at street fairs, urban plazas, and outdoor concerts, and around public art installations. They can help unite us, and they can create and support opportunities for good individual health and well-being. Public spaces that invite use stimulate our minds and bodies; they invite creativity and activity. With thoughtful planning, design, cultivation, and activation, public spaces can play an important role in fostering healthier, more equitable communities. This is a process that can and should originate from the ground up; great public spaces reflect what’s already there and who’s already there. They’re built through an inclusive process and sustained by an engaged community.


However, not all public spaces are created or maintained equally or equitably. Nor are the neighborhoods, towns, or cities that surround them. In fact, health disparities and inequities often are correlated with such factors as limited access to and low quality of available public spaces, as well as lesser degrees of representation and participation in the process of shaping and maintaining public spaces.


The Inclusive Healthy Places Framework was developed through a multi-method research process that included:


  • Deep review of literature on placemaking, planning, health, and inclusion
  • Interviews with US-based and international practitioners whose work sits at the intersection of public health and public space
  • Review of existing global practices at the intersection of inclusion, health, and place
  • Creation of shared experiences of strategies and tactics to promote inclusion in public space plans, projects, and processes with workshops and study tours in Philadelphia, Copenhagen, Malmö, Coimbra (Portugal), and Newark, NJ. 
  • Definition of terms and guiding principles to shape a common language of “inclusive healthy place” for practitioners across fields
  • Comparison of over 50 existing frameworks for evaluating aspects of place, health, and inclusion in the built environment

The Gehl Insitute invites you to check out the Framework, test it, and tell them about your experience. They also want to hear about Inclusive Healthy Places. Email your questions and feedback to, or share on social media using #InclusiveHealthyPlaces.