Over the last few weeks, I’ve written about how a city’s General Plan is one tool for communities to define how they want their city or town to grow and improve population health and how city planning can have a real impact.  I wrote about how community residents can use a recently developed Toolkit put together by ADHS and other members of the Healthy Community Design Collaborative to help them get started and a schedule for General Plan updates for some AZ cities.   

Other community planning resources I’ve written about recently include workshops coordinated by the Urban Land Institute.  The workshops, known as the Community Plan are a free service for public officials at the local level that focus on a holistic approach to land use planning, zoning, transportation, economic development, real estate development and finance. 

Another tool for impacting community and population is something called a “Health Impact Assessment”.  It’s basically a tool for assessing and influencing policy or project decisions to improve health.  A simple example is that if your neighborhood has safe, accessible sidewalks or walking or biking paths, you’ll be more likely to be physically active.  

Health Impact Assessments are used a lot in Europe- and they’re gaining steam here in the U.S.  For example, AZ completed a comprehensive health impact assessment last summer.  We worked with the Maricopa County Department of Public Health on the health impact assessment of the proposed Tempe Modern Streetcar, which will be a 3-mile trolley system connecting the current light rail system to Southern.  

The HIA Team developed comprehensive recommendations that were provided to Tempe for their consideration in planning of the trolley system.  Some of the ideas proposed include: having a bike rental system; adding shade to the walking environment; implementing safe routes to school; identifying sites for additional farmers markets; encouraging supermarkets in underserved areas; encouraging community gardens; installing a buffer between sidewalk and arterial streets to make walking safer; installing pedestrian signals; and implementing a 20 minute neighborhood concept for the neighborhoods within the streetcar corridor- so people are more likely to walk or bike.

We have a couple training opportunities coming up if you want to learn more about health impact assessments.