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Urban Design 4 Health (UD4H) has been busy over the summer and we wanted to share some updates. Our innovative, evidence-based and objectively-measured data and tools are used to promote human health, social equity, environmental resilience, and economic development. Let us know if you would like to know more about how we can help you achieve social impact and quality of life goals of your organization.
Newsletter Overview
Welcoming Benjamin Woelk to UD4H!
Benjamin Woelk, AICP, MSc
Director of Strategic Initiatives
UD4H is pleased to announce that Benjamin Woelk has joined UD4H as the Director of Strategic Initiatives. He brings more than a decade of experience in placemaking, social entrepreneurship, and community planning practice to UD4H.

His recent focus on community infrastructure and health impact led to him authoring four separate Health Impact Assessments (HIA) on parks, trails, housing, and active transportation projects in New York State over the past five years. These HIAs include the Genesee Valley Greenway HIA and the Elmira Housing Rapid HIA which collectively led to nearly $7.5 million in funded infrastructure and programmatic improvements.

Benjamin formerly served on the international advisory committee of the Society of Practitioners of Health Impact Assessment (SOPHIA) and was previously the Vice President of the Western Erie Canal Alliance – a five-county management entity for the western portion of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor.

We are excited to welcome Benjamin and look forward to bringing his skills and experience to our current and future portfolio of projects.

Recent Publications

Continuing its role as a groundbreaking research enterprise, UD4H has published two recent journal articles in the realms of Transportation, Built Environment and Health.

1. Creation of Street Smart Walk Score & Efficacy of a Code-based 3D Walkability Index in the Journal of Transport & Health
  • This is the original study that led to the development of “Street Smart” Walk Score utilized today.
  • This article provides an evaluation of a network-based Walk Score compared to a code-based three-dimensional (3D) walkability index.
  • This article showcases the results of the Walk Score as a Health Measurement Tool project completed by UD4H and funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • Findings: The code-based Walkability Index remained the best predictor of physical activity even after all of the enhancements were made to create a network-based Walk Score.
2. Two Pandemics for the Price of One: Chronic & Infectious Disease Impacts of the Built & Natural Environment in Sustainable Cities & Society
  • The study modeled the complete pathway between built/natural environment, chronic disease, & COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) mortality and emphasizes the mediating role of chronic diseases in the links between upstream environmental factors and downstream COVID-19 mortality.
  • The results demonstrate the mechanisms through which the built and natural environment influences COVID-19 infection and severity of illness are quite different.
  • The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-supported National Environment Database (NED) was the source of the built/natural environment used in this effort.
  • Findings: Healthier (active) and greener transportation infrastructure (e.g., increased tree canopy coverage) is a treatment for two pandemics – related chronic diseases, including diabetes and heart disease, and reducing the mortality risk of highly contagious infectious diseases such as COVID-19.
2021 Smart Location Database Release
UD4H is proud to announce the recent release of the Smart Location Database (SLD). UD4H conducted this work for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA). The SLD is a well-known data resource used by federal agencies, planners, practitioners, researchers and community groups and other non-governmental organizations seeking a range of built environment metrics applicable for any region in the country.

The census block group level SLD metrics indicators include a series of built environment and transportation access metrics comprising 5 core domains: 1) Density, 2) Diversity, 3) Design, 4) Transit and 5) Accessibility, as well as various demographic and employment characteristics. UD4H staff:
  • Acquired, reviewed and assembled current base data sources from federal and regional agencies
  • Replicated and enhanced the measurement calculation methods for SLD metrics
  • Provided recommendations for future expansion and improvement going forward

The new SLD is based on:

  • Expanded transit coverage:
    • More recent General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data
    • Transit agencies included in the SLD more than doubled - now 573 agencies
    • Transit data now available for over 130 more regions
  • The latest updated demographic and employment data from the U.S. Census Bureau
  • Enhanced measures of auto and transit accessibility using traffic congestion weights
  • Expanded measure coverage for Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. overseas territories (where data available)

Read the latest announcement: 2021 Smart Location Database Release
Download the SLD Data: 2021 Smart Location Database
Review the technical report: 2021 Smart Location Database Methods

Let us know if you would like to discuss ways UD4H can help you to integrate health, equity, and the built, natural, and social environment more fully into your work. Learn more about the services we offer.


Contact us for more information.

Dr. Lawrence Frank, President, and the UD4H Team

Urban Design 4 Health (UD4H) develops evidence and tools to support healthy, sustainable, energy secure transportation and land use decision making.

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Copyright © 2021 Urban Design 4 Health, Inc., All rights reserved.

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