Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Checklist for Planning Healthy Communities

Los Angeles magazine
November 1963
Hello Everyone:

People you need to step it up a little if we're going to make our goal of 10,000 page views by April 1st.  I appreciate your support of this blog and now I really need you to show me some love.  Tell everyone you know to check out for articles on architecture, historic preservation, urban planning and design.  Thanks.

Cities are organic entities, they grow and change over the course of their history which makes the case for historic preservation that much more challenging.  According to Anna Ricklin's post for the Preservation Leadership Forum, "Planning Healthy Communities," one of the best arguments for historic preservation is improving human health.  Urban planners and designers strive to create denser, more walkable communities in places overrun by sprawl.  Preservation gives us a chance to re-create and save historic place for the overall health of the residents.  It's no big surprise that historic preservation and urban planning often overlap each other.  Here are some of Ms. Ricklin's ideas on how community planning can incorporate smart planning as a way to create healthier lifestyles and how it works with preservation.

Mercer Street
New York City, New York
Even fully "planned" communities, i.e. places built out for more than a generation, smart planning can play a vital role in achieving safe walkable neighborhoods where people can access healthy foods and basic services, assuming it is available in that neighborhood, as well as jobs and education.  All of these amenities and more, in the built environment, are part of the overall health of community members.  Thus, Ms. Ricklin asks, " do we as planners actually do it?" How planners, used to talking to other planners and developers, talk to a general audience who is suspicious of planning in the first place, about linking issues such as transportation, housing, and historic preservation to health?  Note to Anna Ricklin, there was a great article posted on Planetizen about using advertising industry techniques to sell planning proposals but I digress.

Detroit, Michigan
Approximately one-third of American adults are considered obese and the lack of physical activity, something that can be rectified through planning, is one of the chief causes.  According to Ms. Ricklin there are about 10 million automobile accidents every year which result in approximately 2 million injuries and almost 34,000 deaths (2009 Census data).  While drunk driving and other poor decision making behind the wheel is one of the main causes for these injuries and fatalities, they could've been prevented through planning-related measures. Anna Ricklin is quick to admit that planning isn't the panacea for these issues, including ways to support healthy food choices, mental health and positive social infrastructures in our neighborhood.  Nevertheless, better planning in the built environment can and should be part of the solution.  After all, planning and preservation are relevant.

San Francisco Chinatown
The American Planning Association recently released a toolkit for support planners, public health professionals, and the public for incorporating good health into the planning process.  The Healthy Community Design Toolkit was created in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Healthy Community Design Initiative and the APA's Planning and Community Health Research Center.  The kit is composed of four parts that work together to achieve the goal of good health planning and can be used by anyone who is interested in making a case for health, including individuals who want to preserve the health of entire neighborhood.  The toolkit is more of a general guideline rather than specifically addressing preservation planning, nonetheless, preservationists will recognize the characteristics that contribute to healthy lifestyles: walkable neighborhoods, mix of commercial and residential buildings already present in historic neighborhood offering a a great opportunity for applying the following principles and no doubt, making Jane Jacobs jump for joy.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The toolkit:

Health Community Checklist: a handout for planners and community leaders for use during public meetings or other public forums where decisions about land use are being discussed and made.  The list is a quick way educate the general public about healthy community design and help them take health into the decision making process.

Healthy Community PowerPoint Presentation: this supports the checklist by explaining to community stakeholders how design can affect health and how to use the list during land-use discussions.  It can be customized to include health data on a specific community using the How-To-Guide.

Creating a Health Profile How-To Guide: assists in locating the relevant health data of a community in order to develop a health "snapshot" of the specific community.  The information is useful for education and awareness of the health issues that most a impact a community.  The data can identify the neighborhood's specific urgent health issues.

Planning for Health Resource Guide: a resource guide for each of the subjects covered in the Healthy Community Design Checklist: active living, food choices, transportation choices, public safety, social cohesion, social equality, and environmental health.

Check it out at

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