Throughout California, city and county officials make planning, policy and land-use decisions on a weekly basis.
Typical issues that local officials might confront include the following:
Can downtown be revitalized by providing a mix of commercial, retail and residential uses?
Should a new town-home project be approved to replace a group of old industrial warehouses?
How can streets and sidewalks be designed so that people of varied ages and abilities can safely walk, bike or wheel to school, work and shopping?
What can be done so that farms and ranches near the community remain productive and economically viable?
How could buildings be constructed to conserve natural resources, maximize energy efficiency and create healthy indoor environmental quality for their occupants?
Local officials understand that decisions such as these affect their community’s development. Many also recognize that land-use decisions can have profound effects on residents’ health. A community’s physical design and mix of land uses can create barriers to healthy eating and physical activity. Land use and transportation facilities can expose some individuals to indoor and outdoor environmental pollutants. These in turn can contribute to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other serious health conditions.1
Local officials have many reasons to be concerned about the health of their community. Healthy residents are more actively engaged in community life. A healthy work force is attractive to current and potential employers who want to invest in the community. In addition, many local agencies — particularly counties — are responsible for serving the health, welfare and public safety needs of residents. Healthier residents reduce the pressure on tight local budgets to pay for health and social services, public safety, parks and recreation programs, transportation and transit and a number of other local services and facilities.
Land use can influence health outcomes positively by presenting opportunities for healthy behavior or negatively by restricting access to healthy options. Key land-use characteristics that affect health include:
Patterns of land use within a community.
The design and construction of spaces and buildings within a community.
The transportation systems that connect people to places.
Cities and counties make planning and land-use decisions, both small and large, that can enhance health. This section describes a number of ways that local officials can integrate health concerns into the planning and land-use decisions they regularly make.
In addition to the tools described below, look for Ideas for Action - examples of strategies that local agencies can employ on a range of issues to promote healthy neighborhoods.
In 2010, the Institute for Local Government released the Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods, part of the successful Understanding the Basics of Land Use & Planning series. In August 2013 we created the online version of the guide, and are currently updating content and links. You can still access a PDF version and, while supplies last, order printed versions of the guide here.
This online version of the Guide to Planning Healthy Neighborhoods allows us to update content as needed. We welcome comments, feedback, corrections & suggestions to improve the guide & keep it up to date. Email us here.
Local officials can play a leadership role in efforts to improve community health. This two-page tip sheet helps local officials consider which strategies and resources best fit the situation in their particular neighborhood or community. Access the PDF here.