UN Habitat produces and distributes a large number of reports, many related to health with numerous publications on water infrastructure, social inclusion, disaster management, housing issues, and climate change. Although you can buy printed reports that isn’t always necessary as many can be found for free.
|Diagram from Hidden Cities|
Children, because they are still growing and developing, often suffer from different or additional health risks compared with adults. There are many useful resources on this topic–I list a few below specifically tailored to health and places.
|Feeding chickens. Photo: Heather Forsyth|
- Children’s Health Protection
Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this Web site has a terrific search feature for looking up publications related to where children live, learn, and play. Their Children’s Environmental Health section has additional resources:including a site on indicators called America’s Children and the Environment.
- Guide to Community Preventive Services
This resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a study titled “Community Interventions to Promote Healthy Social Environments: Early Childhood Development and Family Housing,” which gives recommendations from reviews of HUD Section 8 Housing Vouchers, Rental Vouchers and preschool programs based on early childhood development intervention success. There’s also a section on adolescent health, focused on broad health topics.
- Effective Interventions to Tackle Inequalities in Children’s Health
This London Health Commission report provides a summary of “what works” —or what appears to work—in relation to the aims and interventions proposed in the draft children and young people’s strategy; examines other interventions with strong evidence of effectiveness in reducing inequalities in child health; and identifies where there are gaps in the evidence.
Active living, the idea that it’s good to build exercise into daily life, has been big news in planning for a while but I still get questions about how to incorporate active living into plans. A decade ago, when it was a fairly new idea, there was the hope that if we built places where people were more prone to do activities like travel walking, that they’d keep exercising as well, increase their total activity, and reduce weight. It turns out to be a bit more complicated than this as I noted in my blog on high density and overweight adolescents in China. Research is quite mixed in its findings—there’s a lot of variation in how people respond to environments. Programs, policies, prices, education, and attitudes all shape how people use environments. But as a bottom line it is useful to provide options for people to be active in different ways so that when they want to do so they can.
|Mexico City Cycle Day, 2011. Photo: Ann Forsyth|
- Active Living by Design has been around since 2001 and has a useful web site. The group has worked with a number of cities and countied and provides case studies linked to an onsite map: http://www.activelivingbydesign.org/communities.
- The APA has a webinar with some practice examples: http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/education/webinars/activecommunity.htm
- Design for Health also highlights some alternative transportation plans including ones by Bloomongton and St. Louis Park. Some of the questions in the DFH Comprehensive Plan Review checklists also target active living—noted in a column: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/checklists.html
I’ve recently had a number of queries about how to conduct a health impact assessment on an existing comprehensive plan. This is a great thing to do because it can help prioritize changes in an update. How to conduct an HIA is a big topic, but fortunately there are a lot of resources available with more coming online over the next year.
|Model of Downtown Tianjin in the
Tianjin planning museum.
Photo: Ann Forsyth.
For advice about what to do after you have used the checklist and done your evaluation, the Design for Health web site has Information Sheets linked to the research summary topics that have examples and cases:
In addition, a course on Planning for Healthy Places with Health Impact Assessments by the American Planning Association in association with the National Association of County and City Health Officials, is also a good place to start: http://professional.captus.com/Planning/hia/default.aspx. It is currently being updated by a team including Christine Green and Kimberly Hodgson at APA, Nisha Botchwey from the University of Virginia, and myself, with advice from Dee Merriam of the CDC. The update will substantially expand the resources section so there will be lots more information than this brief note can provide.
The National Collaborative for Childhood Obesity Research is a group spearheaded by the National Institute of Health, Centers for Disease Control, and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Catalog of Surveillance Systems is a new product, also sponsored by the USDA. The catalog provides a searchable database of ongoing monitoring systems related to health. It includes both public systems such as the Census of Agriculture and National Vital Statistics System and private ones such as the Nielsen Homescan and InfoUSA.com. In all, 77 systems are represented.
|Workshop on housing options.
(Joanne Richardson in center,
Ann Forsyth photographer)
- A process planner that quizzes the user on everything from money and time available to political support and shoots out a set of participation options–click on methods then planning. Using this planner is a way of getting out of the rut of doing the same old thing. It can also just give you a place to start that is relevant to your situation.
- If you want to see all the methods they are also listed alphabetically.
- Their library is particularly good and with a keyword cloud and lists of recommended webs sites, practical guides, and web tools:http://participationcompass.org/article/index/qa
- Users can also upload case studies: http://participationcompass.org/article/index/study
The Design for Health project has a short information sheet on how to use participatory methods to integrate health into the planning process: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/participation.html. I have reviewed some other participation tools on my Planetizen blog at: http://www.planetizen.com/node/46672.
|Oakland, California (Photo by Ann Forsyth)|
- 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.
InformeDesign (http://www.informedesign.org/) is an online database of research on people and environments. With substantial funding from the American Society of Interior Designers, and based in the University of Minnesota Department of Design, Housing, and Apparel, the database emphasizes research at the building and component level. However, there is enough other work to make it worth a visit, even for urban planning scale investigations.
For those not at universities, finding research on the connections between health and places can be a bit tricky. However, a growing number of online resources are meeting these needs. The entry below lists just a few of these:
- Active Living Research, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has sponsored quite a few special issues with free downloadable articles. Many of them are are listed at: http://www.activelivingresearch.org/resourcesearch/journalspecialissues.
- Healthy Eating Research, another RWJF-funded group, also has free special issues: http://www.healthyeatingresearch.org/publications-mainmenu-111/special-journal-issues-mainmenu-118. In addition they have sponsored a number of proceedings and presentations: http://www.healthyeatingresearch.org/publications-mainmenu-111/proceedings-and-presentations-mainmenu-145.
- Pub Med.gov is produced my ythe U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed. With over 20 million citations, some linke to free downloads. I find their advanced search engine to be most helpful: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/advanced.
- The U.S. Transportation Research Board’s Transportation Research Information Service (TRIS) is a terrific database of transportation resources, some related to health and some of these available for free: http://tris.trb.org/.
- The U. S. HUD USER research portal is similar, with a bias toward housing: http://www.huduser.org/portal/bibliodb/pdrbibdb.html.
- A terrific resource for free journals is Highwire, a division of the Stanford University Libraries that aims to make research more accessible: http://highwire.stanford.edu/lists/freeart.dtl. For example back issues of Environment and Urbanization are free after 3 years: http://eau.sagepub.com/ and the American Journal of Public Health after 2 years: http://ajph.aphapublications.org/.
- Examples of journals with where authors pay fees, include the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (http://www.mdpi.com/journal/ijerph) and the International Journal of Health Geographics (http://www.ij-healthgeographics.com/). I have reviewed for the latter (for free) but have mixed feelings about this approach of charging to publish, although it is common in the sciences.
- In planning the online journals with free submission and publication are in related areas such as transport and include the Journal of Transport and Land Use (https://www.jtlu.org/index.php/jtlu).
(Photo by Ann Forsyth)
Focusing on gardens and other landscapes, with a particular emphasis on gardens in healthcare settings, the web site of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network is a well-designed and maintained resource. I have found the following sections to be particularly helpful:
The evidence-based design section at http://www.healinglandscapes.org/ resources-ebd.html includes online searchable databases, books, and articles.
For further reading, the Design for Health web site deals with planting and mental health at: http://www.designforhealth.net/resources/mentalhealthissue.html