APA Partners With Health Impact Project to Advance Health Through Planning

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, encourages local, state, and national organizations to include health considerations in policy decisions across multiple sectors, such as housing, transportation, and education. Research shows that the conditions in which people live, learn, work, and play influence their health, so the project works to create cross-sector partnerships such as planning and public health.


With its charge to promote the public health, safety, and welfare, the planning profession has a vital role to play in fostering healthy communities.

APA, through its Planning and Community Health program, has long prioritized the development of tools and resources planners can use to help assure conditions in which people can be healthy — through active living, healthy eating, equitable access to community facilities and services, and more.

With the support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, APA developed guidance to integrate health into comprehensive planning, identified metrics for use in planning healthy communities, and partnered with the American Public Health Association on Plan4Health, which built the capacity of state chapters and local coalitions across the nation to address population health goals.

The Health Impact Project (HIP) is another key supporter of APA’s Planning and Community Health program.

HIP promotes the use of Health Impact Assessments (HIAs), which help communities and stakeholders determine the potential health effects of proposed projects, programs, policies, or plans. APA collaborated with HIP to conduct research and provide guidance on integrating Health Impact Assessments into plans and policies that shape the built environment, including a report on the state of HIA in planning, an issue brief highlighting the value of HIAs in planning practice, and a toolkit for integrating HIAs into the planning process.

APA is currently collaborating with HIP on a project to advance the role of planning in public health through the comprehensive plan, the foundational policy document for local governments.

With the support of HIP, APA has been working with three jurisdictions — Culver City, California; Fort Collins, Colorado; and Pinellas County, Florida — with ongoing comprehensive planning processes since September 2018.

This project builds on the Comprehensive Plan Standards for Sustaining Places, an initiative led by the late David Godschalk, FAICP, and past APA President William Anderson, FAICP, that established a framework for addressing the sustainability of human settlements through comprehensive planning.

The work focuses on how the three jurisdictions can apply two principles (Interwoven Equity and Healthy Communities) and one process (Authentic Participation) defined by the framework in their comprehensive plans to improve health, particularly for poor and disadvantaged community members.

Drawing on experience with the three jurisdictions and national best-practice research, APA and HIP are developing a toolkit for other communities interested in integrating health and equity into their comprehensive plans. The toolkit is scheduled for release towards the end of September 2019 — stay tuned to the APA website for more information.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Impact Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, or the Robert Wood Johns Foundation.

Top image: Edora Park in Fort Collins, Colorado, one of three jurisdictions with ongoing comprehensive planning processes since September 2018. Public domain photo.


About the Author
David Rouse, FAICP, is APA's former director of research.

September 6, 2019

By David Rouse, FAICP