Built Environment (BE) Program

Two men in hard hats looking down at a blueprint

Our mission is to promote health and wellness through environments where individuals live, learn, work, worship, and play in Harris County, Texas. 

The built environment is a term used to describe the man-made objects or spaces that form a community. This can include buildings, roads, sidewalks, parks, schools, work sites, and homes. It can also encompass services provided to a community, such as public transportation, and water and sanitation.

Studies show the built environment affects human health. For example, it can influence rates of physical activity, impact levels of fruit and vegetable consumption, and change human exposure to air pollutants. As a result, public health experts are now working with planners, developers, engineers, and transportation authorities to help design our communities in a way that prevents disease and improves health.

For more information contact:

Harris County Public Health
Built Environment Program
(713) 274-6300 
Main Switchboard: 
(713) 439-6000
[email protected].

The Built Environment (BE) Unit was launched in January 2015, as part of an effort to address health through policy and decision making processes in Harris County, Texas.

To address health through the built environment, the BE Unit aims to:

  • Increase access to healthy communities and environments
  • Conduct Health Impact Assessments (HIA) and/or rapid needs assessments to examine and mitigate health risk through policy, planning, and development decisions
  • Inform and make recommendations to decision-makers about how to improve health through updates and changes to policies and plans related to the built environment
  • Support cross-sector collaboration to build capacity and share information regarding best practices for healthy community design
  • Utilize Geographic Information Systems to map health data and conduct spatial analysis
  • Engage the community to build local knowledge and support opportunities to facilitate change that promotes health equity
  • Provide technical assistance to communities and agencies interested in improving the built environment and/or conducting an HIA 

The BE Unit developed a Built Environment Toolkit to serve as a guide for organizations, planners, public officials and public health practitioners to gain knowledge and understanding of Health Impact Assessment and rapid Health Impact Reviews (HIR). The team can provide expertise and guidance on initiating HIAs or HIRs in your community or project plans.

Click each section below to see a brief description and additional information on BE Unit Projects.

Health Impact Assessments
East Aldine and City of Pasadena Health Impact Assessments

In partnership with East Aldine and the city of Pasadena, the BE Unit received a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the Episcopal Health Foundation. The project aimed to examine the impacts of East Aldine proposed town center and the city of Pasadena’s proposal to update residential ordinances. The reports identify solutions to reduce any negative health effects and optimize beneficial health outcomes. Click on the communities below for the full report.

East Aldine
City of Pasadena

Safe Crossings Project
Safe Crossings Project

The Safe Crossings Project was led by the BE Unit with funding from the Urban Land Institute (ULI). The project aimed to improve pedestrian and bicyclist safety by identifying improvements to streets and intersections that pose a risk for increased injury in East Aldine and the city of Galena Park. The report provides recommendations that serve as a conceptual vision for the community to spur dialogue around safe active transportation among East Aldine and Galena Park decision-makers as the communities grow. Click on the communities below for the full report.

East Aldine
City of Galena Park

View a storytelling visual with maps and photos in the Safe Crossings Project StoryMap.

Pasadena Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Plan

Spearheaded by Healthy Living Matters (HLM), the Pasadena SRTS Plan was developed to identify strategies to increase walking and biking to school and increase physical activity levels and health of students. The BE Unit conducted an assessment of the walking environment around the 7 priority schools using HCPH’s Environmental Scan Tool (EST). The development of this plan was supported by Pasadena Vibrant Community, an initiative of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, made possible by an investment from and collaboration with Shell Oil. The full Pasadena SRTS Plan can be found here.

Learn more about the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.