One of the fastest growing areas in the study of community health in complex systems terms is the built environment literature.
The built environment refers to the human-made surroundings that provide the setting for human activity, ranging from large-scale civic surroundings to smaller settings such as work and home.
The term is also now widely used to describe the interdisciplinary field of study which addresses the design, management and use of these human-made surroundings and their relationship to the human activities which take place within them. The field draws upon a wealth of disciplines and areas of study including geography, urban planning, epidemiology, computational and spatial economics, law, medicine, health care, medical sociology, management, architecture, and design and technology.
An excellent website that has devoted considerable attention to this topic is The Prevention Institute. Check it out for more information, in particular their PDF on eleven communities that have implemented programs to improve the built environment.
Other places to explore include:
1. The Center for the Built Environment at Berkeley.
2. The Built Environment Blog.
3. The Built Environment and Health at Columbia University.