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.
Some of the key challenges that local officials may face when working to improve the health of the built environment include are: assessing needs, understanding special populations, forging partnerships, identifying funding and resources and reaching and engaging the public. This section addresses each of these challenges.