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Design For Health

Mapping Rural Health: The USDA Economic Research Service’s Online Maps

Food AtlasThe USDA Economic Research Service’s Food Environment Atlas and Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America provide a wealth of data on health issues and determinants (causes). Boasting an easy-to use interface the Food Environment Atlas deals with a very wide range of issues including grocery store access, restaurant expenditures, food assistance, food insecurity, food prices, local foods, health and physical activity information (e.g. obesity, fitness facilities), and socioeconomic characteristics. There is online documentation and data can be downloaded in Excel format.

The Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America adds even more information about people, jobs, the character of agricultural production, and levels of urbanization. Again documentation is available and data can be downloaded.

Food Resources

 

Food stall in Stockholm. Photo: Ann Forsyth

How people get access to healthy food is a concern to many. I’ve recently had some requests for information. Design for Health resources include an “issues sheet” with ideas for incorporating food into planning and a research summary. Links include a food security assessment, also featured on an earlier blog http://healthymetropolis.blogspot.com/2010/11/tools-food-security-assessments.html

The APA’s national healthy communities center has a food interest group is also a terrific resource as are its numerous publications on this issue: http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/food.htm

Tools: Food Security Assessments

 

Oakland, California (Photo by Ann Forsyth)
The topic of food and planning is one of great interest—particularly promoting healthy food options. Of course what people eat is a complicated result of their personal preferences, financial resources, and social context. Food availability depends on climate, the time of year, whether people grow their own food, how much it costs, home food storage options, and the kinds of stores in the local area.
However, a number of tools can help larger communities plan for their food access.
  • One such tool is the Food Security Assessment. In 2002, the USDA Economic Research Service published a well-known Community Food Security Toolkit: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EFAN02013/ with the entire toolkit at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/efan02013/efan02013.pdf. There are other toolkits around, with many good tools developed for use internationally in areas likely to suffer substantial food shortages, but this one by aU.S. government agency may be a good place for others to start.
  • The USDA web site provides helpful information about food security in the U.S.: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/. A 2007 USDA Food Security Assessment provides an example at the international level: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/GFA19/. However, using the methods in the toolkit, local communities can do this as well.
The food security assessment and other food related tools are discussed in the DFH Food Issues Sheet at http://designforhealth.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Information_Sheet/BCBS_ISFood_090107.pdf based on research outlined in the Food Key Questions research summary http://designforhealth.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Key_Questions/BCBS_KQFood_082207.pdf.

Blogs about Health and Places

As blogs have proliferated some have begun to deal with health and places. Below I list a sampling of the range of such sites, many dealing with health issues as part of a larger interest in topics such as urban development or housing. They are in alphabetical order.

City Parks Blog (http://cityparksblog.org/) is the blog of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence and the City Parks Alliance. One of the interests of the center is in health: http://cityparksblog.org/2009/01/06/parks-mediate-our-urban-mental-health/
From State of the Planet blog

Healthy Cities (http://healthyurbanplanning.blogspot.com/) is the blog of Jason Corburn, a faculty member at Berkeley. It focuses on highlighting resources such as reports and statistics and has an international flavor.

Squatter City (http://squattercity.blogspot.com/) is maintained by Robert Neuwirth. Neuwirth is journalist and author of Shadow Cities, a 2006 book based on a total of two years of living in four different squatter settlements. My undergraduate students find it a compelling read. Neuwirth’s blog deals with a wide range of issues about urban settlements.

State of the Planet (http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu) is a compilation of blogs from the Earth Institute at Columbia University. It is by far the most elaborate in this list with fancy graphics, multiple contributors, and obviously represents a lot of staff time. It has a useful keyword search.

Urban Chickens (http://www.urbanchickens.net/) is an example of a blog about local food production. Entries deal with many of the practicalities of raising one’s own eggs. The proliferation of these kinds of blogs really help people who have a DIY approach. Keep an eye out for next year’s listing of urban chicken coop tours: http://www.urbanchickens.net/2010/03/urban-chicken-coop-tours-in-2010.html
Walk Score, the blog (http://blog.walkscore.com/) builds off the popularity of the walkscore tool. In the main web site an automated calculation based on destinations such as shops. As an expert on pedestrian planning I think this is oversimplified but the tool itself is fun and the blog is a mix of example results and tips about using the scoring (e.g. how to customize scores).
Other web resources about health and places are available at: http://designforhealth.net/blogs-about-health-and-places/
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