Healthy built environment: Spatial patterns and relationships of multiple exposures and deprivation in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver




Doiron, Dany
Setton, Eleanor M.
Shairsingh, Kerolyn
Brauer, Michael
Hystad, Perry
Ross, Nancy A.
Brook, Jeffrey R.

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Environment International


Background Various aspects of the urban environment and neighbourhood socio-economic status interact with each other to affect health. Few studies to date have quantitatively assessed intersections of multiple urban environmental factors and their distribution across levels of deprivation. Objectives To explore the spatial patterns of urban environmental exposures within three large Canadian cities, assess how exposures are distributed across socio-economic deprivation gradients, and identify clusters of favourable or unfavourable environmental characteristics. Methods We indexed nationally standardized estimates of active living friendliness (i.e. “walkability”), NO2 air pollution, and greenness to 6-digit postal codes within the cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. We compared the distribution of within-city exposure tertiles across quintiles of material deprivation. Tertiles of each exposure were then overlaid with each other in order to identify potentially favorable (high walkability, low NO2, high greenness) and unfavorable (low walkability, high NO2, and low greenness) environments. Results In all three cities, high walkability was more common in least deprived areas and less prevalent in highly deprived areas. We also generally saw a greater prevalence of postal codes with high vegetation indices and low NO2 in areas with low deprivation, and a lower greenness prevalence and higher NO2 concentrations in highly deprived areas, suggesting environmental inequity is occurring. Our study showed that relatively few postal codes were simultaneously characterized by desirable or undesirable walkability, NO2 and greenness tertiles. Discussion Spatial analyses of multiple standardized urban environmental factors such as the ones presented in this manuscript can help refine municipal investments and policy priorities. This study illustrates a methodology to prioritize areas for interventions that increase active living and exposure to urban vegetation, as well as lower air pollution. Our results also highlight the importance of considering the intersections between the built environment and socio-economic status in city planning and urban public health decision-making.



Walkability, Deprivation, Built environment, Greenness, Urban environmental health, Air quality


Doiron, D., Setton, E. M., Shairsingh, K., Brauer, M., Hystad, P., Ross, N. A., & Brook, J. R. (2020). Healthy built environment: Spatial patterns and relationships of multiple exposures and deprivation in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. Environment International, 143, 1-11.