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Partners in Health – Planners and Public Health Officers

Case Story

Local governments use a variety of tools to create healthier, sustainable communities. From general plans, ordinances, transportation studies to fitness programs, collecting health data and creating more spaces to play, both professional planners and public health staff are working towards the same goal – healthier, sustainable communities.

Two new case studies highlight the impacts of planners and public health professionals working together. “San Joaquin County Integrates Health in Regional Planning” and “Partnering for Success: Merced County Includes Health in Planning Projects” demonstrate how local planners and public health departments can work together.

San Joaquin County Integrates Health in Regional Planning

In San Joaquin County, a community organization led a collective effort to engage the broad community in integrating health issues into important policies that impact infrastructure funding for the region. Through the Sustainable Communities Coalition (Coalition) facilitated by Catholic Charities’ Environmental Justice Program (Catholic Charities/EJ), San Joaquin County Public Health Services (PHS), and other partners joined together to successfully influence the San Joaquin regional planning process, strengthening intent and language to help achieve the following:

  • Incorporation of measurable goals to improve public health, increase active transportation, and ensure social equity in the adopted San Joaquin Council of Government’s 2014 Regional Transportation Plan Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS);
  • Support of allocation of $115 million dollars in new sidewalks, streetlights, landscaping and traffic calming; and 822 more miles of bike lanes in the RTP/SCS;
  • Inclusion of strategies to reduce auto trips and auto pollutants, as well as increase diversity of housing, access to transit and to reduce the amount households spend on transportation in the RTP/SCS; and,
  • Strengthening of the public participation plan and enhancing the engagement of diverse community groups to provide unified input to the RTP/SCS.

Partnering for Success: Merced County Includes Health in Planning Projects

The Merced County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has a long-term commitment to working on local policies that support healthy communities, and has become an active partner in planning, transportation, and land use policy development processes at the city, county and regional levels. MCDPH has engaged with many stakeholders – including the City and County of Merced, school districts, and community groups – to work together to incorporate public health strategies into a variety of local policies. By approaching their partners as a resource to help them achieve their goals, and by emphasizing the vision they share for healthy, sustainable communities, they have achieved the following:

  • New zoning code update included supportive language for bicycle parking, a new tobacco buffer zone and easier permitting and sales process for community gardening;
  • Successful community outreach resulted in an Active Transportation Program grant for sidewalks in the Winton community;
  • Amendment to the Regional Transportation Plan with policies and goal statements that supported compact growth, alternative transportation and more money for safe routes to school and sidewalks; and,
  • Increased public participation and inclusion of data in multiple planning processes, particularly in underserved communities.

These case stories and others were presented at a convening of public health and planning officials in 2016. The convening was jointly sponsored by the California Conference of Local Health Officers, County Health Executives Association of California, California Department of Public Health, the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, Institute for Local Government, Kaiser Permanente, the American Lung Association, and a number of other sponsors.

Additional materials and case stories from “Capitalizing on New Opportunities: Planners and Public Health working together to promote Healthy Communities” are available via the link at right.

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