The Built, Natural, and Social Environments


Our social, natural, and built environments can affect our immediate and long-term health.


The Built Environment

The built environment is:

  • All building, spaces, and products that are created or modified by people
  • Our homes, schools, workplaces, parks, business areas
  • Roads, trails, sidewalks, paths
  • The built environment extends overhead in the form of electric transmission lines and underground in the form of waste disposal sites and subway lines and across the county in the form of highways

Our health is affected by the decisions made on:

  • Land use (presence or type of building placed on land, density, designated use)
    • Green space (playgrounds, gardens)
    • Public spaces (meeting places, gathering spots)
    • Amenities (street furniture, outdoor dining areas, public restrooms)
    • Landscaping (trees, lighting)
    • Buildings (height, number, appearance)
    • Safety (lighting, sight lines)
  • Transportation
    • Streets, roads, and highways (design, pattern, traffic calming measures)
    • Sidewalks (location, width, connectivity)
    • Bicycle and walking paths (Active Transportation)


Municipalities in Ontario are required to plan for development and how the land in the community will be used in the future. Grey County and Bruce County are upper tier municipalities that are ultimately responsible for land-use planning.  Both Counties have their own Official Plan. Most lower tier municipalities also have their own official plan.  These plans must comply with the appropriate County Official Plan.

You help inform your municipality’s official plans by voting, participating in community consultations, and speaking with or writing to decision makers about what is important to you.

To learn more about land use planning and official plans, review the Citizen’s Guides produced by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing.

Natural Environment

The natural environment is:

  • The air we breathe (indoor &  outdoor)
  • The water we drink (surface & ground water)
  • Wetlands, rivers, streams, lakes, water-bodies
  • Woodlands (forests)
  • Mineral and natural resource deposits

Our health is effected by the decisions that influence our access to the natural environment and its resources.

Grey Sauble Conservation Authority

Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority

Social Environment

The social environment includes all the other pieces of our community which are not built or natural.

Aspects of the social environment include:

  • The economy
  • Income and employment rates
  • Local employment opportunities
  • Poverty and related issues
  • Community involvement and participation
  • Housing – choice, affordability, quality
  • Safety and security
  • Leisure and recreation – a variety of low cost organized and unstructured opportunities for all ages
  • Lifelong learning opportunities
  • Social cohesion and social support networks
  • Arts and culture
  • Heritage

Learn more about the Social Determinants of Health


Healthy Public Policy

Healthy Public Policies recognize that health is more than health care and that there are opportunities to improve health and wellbeing through policy. Using a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach means leaders recognize and consider the health impacts of their decisions, even when the aim of a policy is not to influence health or wellbeing.

WHO HiAP Statement

Healthy Policies for Official Plans




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