Healthy Neighborhoods


Healthy Neighborhoods

The Institute for Local Government’s Healthy Neighborhoods Project provides support and resources to protect and improve community health by integrating health considerations into their planning, land use and other decisions. 

The resources are geared to strengthen the efforts of local officials, staff, planning and development professionals, and community residents in creating healthier communities.


Online Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods
Understanding the Basics of Land Use and Planning Series

Local officials can provide leadership in many ways to create healthy neighborhoods.

This guide:

  • Identifies the reasons to be concerned about the relationship between health and the built environment.
  • Offers options for transforming that concern into a vision for a healthier community.
  • Provides strategies and examples of how to translate that vision into action.

Health, Planning and Community Design

Decisions surrounding planning and community design can have significant impacts on the physical, social and mental health of community members.

Local leaders can influence health impacts when making decisions related to the general plan, zoning and conditional use permits, environmental review and health impact assessments.

Key words: general plans, health element, active living, mixed-use and infill development, zoning, conditional use, farmers’ markets, community gardens, land use planners


Health, Transportation and Mobility

Healthy neighborhoods offer bikeable, walkable or transit-oriented transportation systems that are safe, provide appropriate travel options, are easily accessed, and are feasible for all populations and all trips.

Local leaders can provide opportunities for physical activity in daily life by designing transportation systems to accommodate and encourage walking and bicycling for travel to work, school and other daily destinations.

Key words: bicycle and pedestrian master plans, transit-oriented development, complete streets, safe routes to school, connectivity, trail plans, design standards, traffic safety, sidewalk improvements, traffic calming, street trees, capital and public works, transportation planners


Health and Community Services

Community services and programs operated by public agencies and community groups provide health benefits by facilitating social interaction and support, promoting healthy living and promoting equitable access to community resources.

Local programs and community services:

  • Ensure easy access to safe parks.
  • Create quality recreational facilities and programs.
  • Increase availability of local school grounds to include after-school and weekend hours to facilitate physical activity, social cohesion, and improved neighborhood safety.
  • Provide access to health care and wellness programs.
  • Provide programs and services that promote contact with nature to reduce stress, improve mental health, and facilitate recovery from illness.

Key words: recreation facilities, recreation programs, joint use, wellness programs, access to health care, collaborative decision-making, access to nature, parks and recreation departments


Health and Public Safety

Residents’ perception of safety impacts their health and well-being by influencing their level of engagement in physical and social activities.  Residents who don’t feel safe in their communities are less likely to be involved, increasing their risk of isolation, obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

Local agencies can help by supporting neighborhood design features that reduce the risk of injuries and support crime prevention.  For example, better-lit areas decrease the likelihood of theft and violence and increase the feeling of safety and security. If designed appropriately, increasing neighborhood density provides more people supervising public space.  Local agencies can also enforce local codes to clean up vacant lots, contaminated or polluted sites and reduce graffiti. 


Key words: design for safety, increase neighborhood density, social relationships, traffic calming, decontamination, code compliance and enforcement


Health and Economic Development

Health and prosperity go hand-in-hand. Research shows that neighborhoods that offer a range of jobs and attract and retain local businesses and industries have healthier residents.

To provide health benefits, economic development efforts should focus on neighborhood revitalization and quality of life improvements for residents. Local leaders can focus on:

  • Offering easy access to schools, parks, shops, grocery stores, health care facilities and jobs.
  • Attracting future community investment and encouraging local business development that will evolve with the population.
  • Identifying and highlighting a community’s unique assets.

Key words: access to healthy food, community investment, attracting grocery stores, encouraging market conversions, supporting local business and agriculture, business improvement districts, farmland preservation, food hubs, economic development managers


Health and Housing

Where people live, the quality of their housing, the places in and around the home where children play, and the type of land homes are built on can have profound and lasting impacts on health. 

Housing options that serve the needs of all of your residents help create neighborhoods that are vibrant, promote social cohesion and encourage bicycling and walking for recreation and transportation.

Key words: building materials, pollution exposure from adjacent land uses, diverse housing stock, universal design, affordable housing, aging in place, green building


Healthy Workplaces

Efforts to improve employee wellness are beneficial to both employee and employer.  Programs and policies that prevent obesity, support healthy nutrition, provide tobacco cessation resources, encourage physical activity can reduce health care costs.

As employers, local agencies can play an important role in reducing the high rates of preventable chronic diseases.  Local agencies can also promote good health by including design characteristics, green building materials and accommodations for active commuting and exercise in buildings.

Key words: obesity prevention, tobacco cessation, workplace wellness programs, lactation accommodations