Plan4Health Success Story: Cross-sector Workshops in Utah

Plan4Health connects communities across the country, funding work at the intersection of planning and public health. Anchored by American Planning Association (APA) chapters and American Public Health Association (APHA) affiliates, Plan4Health supports creative partnerships to build sustainable, cross-sector coalitions.

Utah is a big place, and the needs of its communities, decision makers, stakeholders, planners, and public health professionals are just as diverse. In an effort to discover, adapt to, and provide resources for those needs, we established a three-part approach to our Planners4Health process in Utah.

First, we assessed current needs through community planning document review, task force creation, practitioners survey, and data sharing initiative.

Second, we convened two workshops, one in Northern Utah (more urban) and one in Southern Utah (more rural) to provide hands-on training for planners, public health professionals, and community partners and decision makers.

Third, the task force organized a meeting of roughly 30 high-level stakeholders from health, planning, advocacy, and political organizations throughout the state.

Our mission, throughout and following the grant period, is to continue to discover and address the needs of better integration of planning and public health in Utah.

Planners4Health indoor workshop in northern Utah. Photo courtesy Planners4Health Utah Task Force.

Part 1: Survey and Plan Review (Assessment)

Our vision for the assessment period was divided in two parts:

  1. Build on past surveys and assessments done by the APA Utah chapter and the Utah Department of Health in order to compare current responses to those in the past, and to collect new data from practitioners and others in and outside of planning and public health.
  2. Determine the topics of discussion and instruction that would be included in our two one-day training workshops that were held in June 2017.

Utah's task force accomplished this by way of a dual-faceted approach, which included an online survey that was completed by nearly 300 people as well as a review of current comprehensive, transportation, corridor, health, and bicycle and pedestrian plans from diverse community types and sizes throughout Utah.


The results of our survey, which were distributed to and through nearly every planning, engineering, and public health organization in Utah, were illuminating and informative. As a task force and in our workshops and stakeholder roundtable meeting, we enjoyed reviewing what the results mean and how we can shape and customize future trainings and educational opportunities to the needs and responses from public health, planning, and other professionals in Utah.

One of the underlying themes in the results was that planners and public health professional have worked together in the past and very much want to work together in the future. However, as of the survey, they did not know how to talk to one another, where data lived, or how to be involved in currently separated processes early on in meaningful ways and at meaningful times.

Respondents told the task force that they would like to learn more about the following topics or that they were already engaged in particular areas of public health and planning integration, which were the primary foci of our practitioners' workshops:

  • How the planning process works and how to get involved from the beginning
  • How to include health in all policies and implementation strategies
  • Air quality
  • How to effectively use public resources to improve public health
  • Real, actionable steps to working together better (as public health and planning professionals)
  • Willingness of public health and planning professionals to work together in the past and in the future
  • The symbiotic relationship between planning and health
  • Topics that have brought planners and public health professionals together in the past
  • What public health and planning processes are just starting or are on-going right now that people in the other field can contribute to

More trends and takeaways can be found in the Workshop and the Stakeholder Roundtable PowerPoints.

Plan Review

Our initial assessment included the review of planning documents from eight different Utah communities that varied in geographic and demographic context, community size, and plan scope. These included transportation master plans, corridor plans, community health improvement plans, general plans, and bicycle and pedestrian plans. The reviews and subsequent suites of recommendations were very helpful to see where many Utah communities are when it comes to planning for health and implementing and realizing health outcomes. We also used this analysis to determine the training planners needed.

Part 2: Workshops (Education)

The task force hosted two one-day workshops, one in rural Southern Utah on June 26, 2017, and one in more urbanized Northern Utah on June 28, 2017.

The workshops were highly successful. There were roughly 20 in attendance in Southern Utah and about 100 people in Salt Lake City. The agenda for both workshops included an overview of the grant's purpose, survey responses and takeaways, the dimensions of planning and public health, how the planning process works, what public health professionals do, walking tours, and small group discussions and interactive exercises.

Our interactions were meaningful and the cross-pollination, questions, insights, and growth that we saw were uplifting.

Planners4Health workshop in northern Utah. Photo courtesy Planners4Health Utah Task Force.

In addition, four people took advantage of our 10 total rural travel scholarships, which were meant to encourage attendance by people from more remote and/or underfunded communities, such as Vernal and Boulder, Utah.

Following the workshops, we put together a list of resources and a short follow-up evaluation survey for workshop attendees. This response from a public health professional who attended the Southern Utah workshop was particularly uplifting.

In response to the question "What did you learn from your attendance that you did not know before?" they stated: "I didn't know anything about the planning process so I learned what planners are thinking about during their projects and that I can provide a lot of information to them to help them plan for health." It was very simple, but it sums up everything that we worked for during the Planners4Health project.

Part 3: Stakeholder Discussion and Next Steps (Planning the Future)

It was our intention to delay intentional engagement of stakeholders and potential partners until after the assessment, workshop, and education pieces of the project were completed. This approach allowed our task force to inform stakeholders about the key takeaways from the feedback received through the survey and plan review. It also provided a roadmap for future planning and public health integration.

On September 5, 2017, a select group of our task force convened about 30 stakeholders in a two-and-a-half-hour roundtable discussion held at the Davis County Administrative Offices in Farmington, Utah. Attendees included high-level representatives, presidents, directors, and decision makers from organizations such as the Utah Department of Transportation, Intermountain Healthcare, Wasatch Front Regional Council, the Governor's Office, Salt Lake County, Utah County Health Department, Utah Local Health Officers Organization, Breathe Utah, Clean Air Utah, Centerville City, Davis County Commission, American Heart Association, Active Planning, Inc., APHA Utah Affiliate, and APA Utah.

Planners4Health workshop in southern Utah. Photo courtesy Planners4Health Task Force.

Our agenda included an introduction to the project and process, the history and shared vision of planning and public health, Utah success stories at the intersection of planning and public health, and small group discussions and questions. The latter agenda items, which were dispersed throughout the midday roundtable meeting, produced discussion about the next steps surrounding the following considerations:

  • How does the built environment impact health?
  • What work have you been involved in (or if none, would like to be)?
  • What helped bring success? And what challenges were faced?
  • Do you have an idea that you would like to expand or begin working on?
  • What do you need to accomplish the idea?
  • Who's missing from this gathering and conversation?
  • Which organizations are active partners right now?
  • What have you observed about Health and Planning professions working together?
  • Please describe your shared goals and desired outcomes.
  • How can we translate and disseminate work that is already happening?
  • What is most needed to build capacity?
  • What is needed to promote/create incentives for/ensure planning and health work together?
  • What strategies should be pursued in the next one to two years in order to connect and coordinate planning and public health? In the next five years?
  • What are your recommendations for APA Utah, UPHA, or others?

At the end of the stakeholder roundtable, the presidents of APA Utah and the APHA Utah Affiliate committed to jointly host a reconvening of the stakeholders (those present and those who the task force and attendees desired to be present) in one year's time.

Following the roundtable and as the project wraps up, the Planners4Health Utah task force will consider the following next steps in order to increase capacity, build unity, and promote coalition-building between planning and public health in Utah. Many of these ideas came from our small group discussions and activities at the Stakeholder Roundtable meeting:

  • Continue to meet as a task force two to four times per year, including discussion of data sharing, stakeholder convening, conference presentations, resource sharing, and outcomes of the cross-sector membership benefits provided by the Call to Action Grant.
  • Reconvene stakeholders for a follow-up roundtable workshop in September 2018.
  • Establish conference tracks that integrate planning and public health into public health and planning conferences, respectively.
  • Disseminate the resources, survey results and takeaways, and the other materials developed during the Planners4Health process to all workshop attendees, survey respondents, and invited and attending stakeholders.
  • Specifically engage the Utah League of Cities and Towns and major MPOs in the state to continue the training curriculum of Planners4Health to the people and agencies that were not involved during the Planners4Health period (i.e. PTAs, League of Cities and Towns, state legislature, individual City Councils, USOPHE, etc.).
  • Use the WCC Conference in December 2017 as the springboard/official kickoff for Utah's next steps, using guidance from Planners4Health.
  • Implement the second round of the practitioners' survey in several years in order to find new information from new and recurring respondents, using most of the questions from the 2017 survey as a baseline.
  • Assist WFRC, AGRC, and UDOH in continuing to work together to establish a one-stop shop for health, planning, geographic, and built environment data for practitioners, stakeholders, and decision makers across the state.
  • Work with Intermountain Healthcare and other service providers to focus on building and area-scale design, to improve accessibility, trail usage, and use of non-motorized transportation, carpooling, and other transportation alternatives.
  • Improve touchpoints between the Utah Department of Health and the Utah Department of Transportation.
  • Create master maps and data sources with interrelated planning models and health outcomes.
  • Integrate health and planning strategies, success stories, and outcomes into UDOT's Move Utah public information and community planning and technical assistance campaign.

Top image: Sugar House Park in the Fairmont-Sugar House neighborhood of Salt Lake City, a 2012 Great Neighborhood. Photo by Laurie Bray.

About the Author
Tom Millar is a transportation planner at the Salt Lake City Corporation and associate instructor in the College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Utah.

March 8, 2018

By Tom Millar