Zoning and the built environment: A public health analysis of zoning in Austin, Texas

Betsy A Goldstein, The University of Texas School of Public Health


The built environment is part of the physical environment made by people and for people. Because the built environment is such a ubiquitous component of the environment, it acts as an important pathway in determining health outcomes. Zoning, a type of urban planning policy, is one of the most important mechanisms connecting the built environment to public health. This policy analysis research paper explores how zoning regulations in Austin, Texas promote or prohibit the development of a healthy built environment. A systematic literature review was obtained from Active Living Research, which contained literature published about the relationships between the built environment, physical activity, and health. The results of these studies identified the following four components of the built environment that were associated to health: access to recreational facilities, sprawl and residential density, land use mix, and sidewalks and their walkability. A hierarchy analysis was then performed to demonstrate the association between these aspects of the built environment and health outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and general health. Once these associations had been established, the components of the built environment were adapted into the evaluation criteria used to conduct a public health analysis of Austin's zoning ordinance. A total of eighty-eight regulations were identified to be related to these components and their varying associations to human health. Eight regulations were projected to have a negative association to health, three would have both a positive and negative association simultaneously, and nine were indeterminable with the information obtained through the literature review. The remaining sixty-eight regulations were projected to be associated in a beneficial manner to human health. Therefore, it was concluded that Austin's zoning ordinance would have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the public's health based on identified associations between the built environment and health outcomes.

Subject Area

Public health|Environmental science|Urban planning|Area planning & development

Recommended Citation

Goldstein, Betsy A, "Zoning and the built environment: A public health analysis of zoning in Austin, Texas" (2007). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1444732.