The effects of built environment attributes on physical activity-related health and health care costs outcomes in Australia

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Attributes of the built environment can positively influence physical activity of urban populations, which results in health and economic benefits. In this study, we derived scenarios from the literature for the association built environment-physical activity and used a mathematical model to translate improvements in physical activity to health-adjusted life years and health care costs. We modelled 28 scenarios representing a diverse range of built environment attributes including density, diversity of land use, availability of destinations, distance to transit, design and neighbourhood walkability. Our results indicated potential health gains in 24 of the 28 modelled built environment attributes. Health care cost savings due to prevented physical activity-related diseases ranged between A$1300 to A$105,355 per 100,000 adults per year. On the other hand, additional health care costs of prolonged life years attributable to improvements in physical activity were nearly 50% higher than the estimated health care costs savings. Our results give an indication of the potential health benefits of investing in physical activity-friendly built environments.

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