News Release: November 10, 2016

New Resources Can Help Communities Get Healthier

CHICAGO — A suite of new resources from the American Planning Association’s (APA) Planning and Community Health Center are designed to help communities become healthier, more easily. The new resources all focus on Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which is a six-step process to help a community make choices on how to improve public health through a plan, policy or project. The resources are part of on-going research work for APA’s HIA and Planning Project.

“There is a direct correlation between how plans and policies are developed and health impacts,” said Anna Ricklin, AICP, manager of APA’s Planning and Community Health Research Center. “The growing use of HIAs in planning demonstrates that communities are making the connection between planning and public health, and there is great interest in bringing health considerations into the planning profession.”

For an introduction to HIAs, planners and policy leaders can start with the Issue Brief: Health Impact Assessment Can Inform Planning to Promote Public Health. The brief, produced in partnership with the Health Impact Project, provides a quick synopsis of the HIA report and details how to improve sharing of important health data, promote citizen involvement, develop cross-sector collaboration, and reframe contentious issues around health policies.

The brief is a great introduction for leaders and policy makers unfamiliar with the role and benefits of HIAs.

The State of Health Impact Assessment in Planning Report provides more in-depth guidance on how planners can increase the use of planning HIAs to obtain a better understanding of current community conditions. One key takeaway from the report is the opportunity for planners to take the lead on conducting HIAs. The majority of the HIAs conducted within the past decade were led by public health professionals. However, nearly one-third of HIAs completed addressed a planning topic, so HIAs are increasingly focusing on planning issues.

Additionally, the report highlights how to bring together various stakeholders, understand and describe health impacts, and integrate mitigation efforts to enhance and improve a community’s health. Five case studies included in the report demonstrate how HIAs have been conducted in different geographic locations of varying jurisdictional sizes, and on a variety of planning topics.

Finally, the report identifies the benefits of conducting an HIA, including building greater collaborations and partnerships, engaging the community, and aiding in prioritizing community health objectives.

The third new resource is the Toolkit: Health Impact Assessment Toolkit for Planners. The toolkit is designed to guide professionals through an HIA in six steps: screening, scoping, assessment, recommendations, reporting, and monitoring and evaluation. The toolkit builds upon the findings from the HIA report and provides guidance on how to move from “considering an HIA” to “conducting an HIA.”

The toolkit also provides tips for completing an effective HIA such as: establishing an advisory committee; limiting scope to focus on no more than five health impacts; and creating a flexible schedule.

HIA is a valuable tool to help communities identify and work toward achieving their health goals. Not only do they bring together a variety of stakeholders within the community, HIAs also help a community understand and describe the health impacts.

The resources were part of a two-year project by APA’s Planning and Community Health Center, which advances practices that improve human environments through active living, healthy eating and health in all planning policies. This work is supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not- for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more information, visit

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Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395;