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The built environment
Building safer environments: injury, safety, and our surroundings
  1. M Stevenson
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor M Stevenson
 Director, Injury Prevention and Trauma Care Division, The George Institute for International Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia; mstevenson{at}

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Better urban planning could contribute significantly to injury prevention

In response to the burden of injury, an array of countermeasures which focus on the prevention of injury and the promotion of safety has been developed. These countermeasures range from interventions that require individuals to actively change behaviors, through to countermeasures that require no action by the individual intended to be protected by them. The latter countermeasures are generally those that are integrated into the “environment”.

There is a growing body of literature that examines the influence of the built environment and in particular neighbourhoods on health outcomes such as cardiovascular disease,1 respiratory illness,2 and low birth weight.3 Despite an increased understanding of the relation between the built environment and these health outcomes, scant attention is paid to the health outcomes that could be achieved if safety/injury prevention was a leading priority in the design of built environments.


There is little debate that the built environment needs to be safe, accessible, and vibrant. Specific countermeasures directed at changes to the built environment could contribute, significantly, to reduced rates of injury. For example, a number of environmental features have been reported to increase the risk of pedestrian injury in children. Features such as the …

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