Knowledge Resources & Publications

ISBN (Print) : 978-1-77368-179-5 | ISBN (Online) : 978-1-77368-180-1

The built environment: Understanding how physical environments influence the health and well-being of First Nations peoples living on-reserve

April 2018

This paper summarizes what is known about how the built environment influences the health and well-being of First Nations reserve communities. Although the built environment is large in scope this paper focuses in five distinct areas including:

  • housing;
  • water and wastewater management;
  • food security;
  • active living; and
  • transportation.


Each of these elements are discussed in detail with specific attention to the health, well-being and safety concerns when poorly funded, maintained or absent from First Nations reserve communities. The paper starts by introducing how Indigenous peoples in Canada deliberately planned and designed their communities so as to thrive within their territories prior to colonization. It then turns to how colonization altered Indigenous peoples’ home and community environments thereby contributing to many of the on-going social and health inequities currently experienced by them. The paper concludes with some advances and success to improve the built environments of on-reserve communities.


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