Planning for Public Health

Across the U.S., local governments are beginning to include goals and objectives that promote public health into their comprehensive plans. These long-term plans impact how people make choices of where to live and how to get around, their ability to access healthy foods and opportunities for physical activity, and affect broader issues of social equity, clean air and water, and more.

bike lane markingUnderstanding the potential for such long-term impacts, the Planning and Community Health Research Center is conducting a multi-year research study to:

  • Identify and determine to what extent municipalities and counties are addressing and integrating public health goals, objectives, and policies in their comprehensive planning efforts.
  • Identify which elements of the plan include health policies, such as land use, open space, transportation, or urban design.
  • Examine and evaluate the clarity, quality and comprehensiveness of public health goals and policies in a sample of the identified plans.
  • Conduct case studies to analyze collaboration across the health and planning sectors, goal setting and policy development, and the implementation process.

A Model for Public Health in Plans

Latest Report

Healthy Plan Making: Integrating Health Into the Comprehensive Planning Process—An analysis of seven case studies and recommendations for change

This study is the first to provide an in-depth, qualitative analysis of how public health became a part of the planning process. It provides context and background on collaboration between and public health departments, strong policy making, and successful implementation.

Download the Healthy Plan Making report (pdf)

Access to Drinking Water in Public Places

Water is at the center of a healthy diet, and access to free, potable water plays a key role in addressing the obesity epidemic in the U.S. In this new report, Quenching Community Thirst, APA outlines strategies to promote access to drinking water as an essential step towards ensuring healthy, livable communities.

Download the report Quenching Community Thirst (pdf)

Plan Evaluation

In the second phase of this work, APA selected a group of 22 comprehensive and sustainability plans for a detailed evaluation of their goals, objectives, and policies. The evaluation assessed the extent to which these plans addressed public health through six broad health-related planning topics:

  • Active Living
  • Emergency Preparedness
  • Environmental Exposures
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Health and Human Services
  • Social Cohesion and Mental Health

The report shows which public health topics have been included the most and which topics receive the least attention. It also highlights plan strengths and weaknesses in addressing public health and identifies examples of robust policies from across the group of plans that promote health in their communities.

Download the complete evaluation report (pdf)

National Survey

As part of the first phase of this project, APA developed a national, web-based survey to identify draft and adopted comprehensive and sustainability plans that explicitly include public health related goals, objectives, and policies, and inventory the public health topics included in the plans. It also identifies the opportunities and barriers that communities face in the development and adoption of such policies and assesses the current state of planning for public health nationally.

Results of the survey include a list of municipalities and counties from across the country that explicitly address public health in their comprehensive or sustainability plan

Download the survey results report (pdf)