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Design For Health

How to Learn About the Basics of Healthy Community Planning

Linking health and planning requires learning about (at least) two areas. Public health folks are often confused about planning and planners have a lot to learn about health. There are a number of useful web sites and below I list just a few free guides that can lead you through the maze.

Healthy Urban Development Checklist
  • The Healthy Urban Development Checklist: A Guide for Health Services when Commenting on Development Policies, Plans and Proposals introduces public health folks to planning. Developed by the NSW Department of Health in Australia, it will be useful in many other locations. It takes a little while to load but once it’s on screen it provides a useful introduction to health issues and the planning system. It covers a typical range of issues including food, physical activity, housing, transport employment, community safety, open space, social infrastructure, social cohesion, environment, and specific development contexts such as infill.
  • Delivering Healthier Communities in London  was developed for the National Health Service London Healthy Development Unit in 2007. Also a bit slow to load, it is organized around key health issues–mental health, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, excessive heat and cold, and injuries. It links each of these the environmental factors.
  • The Design for Health web site comes from the other direction, aimed at informing planners about health. Its health impact assessment tools draw on research summaries and can feed into planning actions. Topics are rather similar to the Healthy Urban Development Checklist (above).

How to Do a Rapid Health Impact Assessment: Useful Reports

The Rapid Health Impact Assessment—the kind of HIA that takes the form of a structured workshop with substantial preparation and reporting—boasts a number of detailed manuals, such as the classic by Erica Ison: http://www.apho.org.uk/resource/item.aspx?RID=44890.

Arden Hills Healthy City Planning Workshop
Photo: Ann Forsyth
However, moving beyond such general guidance it can be hard to find out how others have conducted their HIAs. Some people provide extensive background reports but not much about what actually happened at the workshops. Others focus on the outcomes of the HIA and not the inputs and process. An increasing number of practitioners are, however, reporting on HIAs in straightforward ways that provide transferrable tools for others. This entry highlights several of these, all containing useful examples of worksheets, maps, and recommendation checklists or tables.
  • The London Olympics HIA, completed in 2004 is an example of a health impact assessment conducted on a major employment and housing development. Prepared by consultant for the London Health Commission and the London Development Agency, the HIA had two parts: a desktop assessment using many existing reports and a workshop with 21 key participants (including advocates, government representatives, academic and academics). The HIA looked at construction, operation, and post games time periods and the consultant produced a 155 page report, available online: http://www.apho.org.uk/resource/view.aspx?RID=61057. This comprehensive report contains substantial background information, results from exercises in the workshop including some interesting voting activities, and clear recommendations.
  • The Lowry Corridor HIA of 2007, while an internally conduced assessment rather than a true participatory HIA, is a terrific resource. Focusing on the redevelopment of a major road in Minneapolis, the report contains several well thought-out worksheets and a number of interesting maps: http://www.apho.org.uk/resource/item.aspx?RID=60512. It is a very accessible document.
  • Commerce City, Derby Redevelopment Area HIA is also not a traditional rapid HIA but it is included here for its imaginative use of participation and analysis tools. These range from computer mapping and proposals for street redesign to photos taken by residents and stills from a video produced by local high school students. Located in a lower income, majority Latino area of suburban Denver the HIA was conducted by the Tri-County Health Department who in turn employed short-term consultants on special topics. With a focus on physical activity and nutrition, recommendations from the 65- page report (http://www.tchd.org/pdfs/hia_final.pdf) fed into a master plan.
  • The Arden Hills Healthy City Planning Workshop of 2010 assessed options for reusing a military facility in a suburb of the Twin Cities. The state Department of Health sponsored this HIA collaborated with the City of Arden Hills, hiring a consultant to actually conduct it (Design for Health). This is one of the very few HIA reports that includes basically all the information used to run and report on the HIA workshop–the actual information packet provided to participants in advance; the agenda of the meeting, copies of handouts, worksheets, and presentations from the workshops; a series of photos keyed to parts of the agenda; and the workshop’s summary report. The summary report and appendices, along with a description of the workshop, are online: http://designforhealth.net/cases/arden-hills-2010-workshop/.
  • More information about HIA in general can be found at http://designforhealth.net/hia/.
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