Resources for Planning Active and Healthy Communities
The resources on this page are just highlights. Many of the websites listed below provide links to numerous other popular and valuable resources related to health and the built environment.
PLACE Resource Guide
Communities face a myriad of challenges to our built environment, including growth, traffic, and land uses. One of the most important actions we can take today, is to address these challenges in a way that best supports the health of the population, while at the same time, protects resources and the environment. The PLACE Resource Guide describes a variety of resources, tools, and examples communities can use to explore how to best manage these complex issues.
Power Point Slides
CDC Obesity Trends 1985-2009 – Slide set illustrating the trend of increasing obesity across the nation by state.
Colorado Health Indicators (9/1/2008) – Summary of data compiled from the Colorado Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the Colorado Child Health Survey. Data and slides prepared by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Planning Active Community Environments (PLACE) Training (11/7/2008) in PDF format – This is one of the slide sets that was presented at the PLACE Training on November 7, 2008. This slide set contains an overview of the links between land use planning and public health.
Planning Active Living Environments (10/15/2008) – This slide set includes history of urban planning and public health, the links between the built environment and public health, and recommendations for designing communities that encourage health.
PHR 2008/CEHA 2008 Conference Presentation (10/15/2008) – This is the slide set (in PDF format) that was presented at the Public Health in the Rockies 2008 Conference and the CEHA 2008 Conference in September 2008. The session was entitled, “Linking Public/Environmental Health and community Design: A Toolkit for Developing Relationships and Increasing Awareness.”
In a visual format, [external link] rihel.org/images/stories/doc/place08_samplehandouts.pdf [external link] this document highlights a sample of fact sheets and reports. There are many more valuable publications that can be accessed through the websites listed below. We especially recommend the LiveWell Colorado website (see below) as an excellent starting point for both Colorado and National resources.
LiveWell Colorado contains links to many local and national websites, reports, toolkits and other resources
Colorado Health Data allows access to data from many programs within the State Health Department.
Active Living by Design is a national program sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. The website contains useful statistics and case studies on efforts to promote physical activity via environmental changes.
Active Living Research is national program sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that supports research to examine how environments and policies influence active living for children and their families. The website includes an online research database and policy-related case studies.
The Centers for Disease Control, Designing and Building Healthy Places provides an overview of Healthy Community Design and key health issues related to land use, as well as fact sheets and many other publications and online resources. provides an overview of Healthy Community Design and key health issues related to land use, as well as fact sheets and many other publications and online resources.
The Community Food Security Coalition provides information on food systems, assessing food security, and protecting local produce suppliers.
Design for Health is a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota aiming to connect local governments with new research into the health influences of built environments. The website includes a technical assistance library, fact sheets, and case studies.
The Environmental Protection Agency has many resources on air, water, transportation, smart growth, brownfields, etc.
Leadership for Healthy Communities is a national program designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods. It focuses, in particular, on policy efforts that can improve nutrition and increase physical activity among children at high risk for obesity.
The National Association of City and County Health Officials (NACCHO) has a “Community Design and Land Use Program” web portal, which includes fact sheets, profiles, a flowchart for collaboration between planners and health departments, a planning/health jargon glossary, and other resources (www.naccho.org/topics/hpdp/Land_Use_Planning.cfm).
The National Center for Safe Routes to School assists communities in enabling and encouraging children to safely walk and bike to school. The Center strives to equip Safe Routes to School programs with the knowledge and technical information to implement safe and successful strategies. In the process, programs are working to reduce traffic congestion and improve health and the environment, making communities more livable for everyone.
Policy Link is a national research and action institute advancing economic and social equity by “Lifting Up What Works® – a way of focusing attention on how people are working successfully to use local, state, and federal policy to create conditions that benefit everyone, especially people in low-income communities and communities of color.
The Public Health Law & Policy Planning for Healthy Places has a variety of resources and toolkits that highlight the relationship between the built environment and public health, and provide practical “how to” guidelines to help health advocates participate in land use and economic development processes.
Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute, Sustainable Community Development Code includes innovative code guidelines for Healthy Food Systems, Parking, and Complete Streets. Additional codes are also under development.
The San Francisco Department of Public Health has developed a Healthy Development Measurement Tool contains resources for health impact assessments and includes a set of health-related planning goals, backed by rationales from academic literature and connected to a range of standards for implementation.
Transportation for America is a growing, national coalition committed to creating a new national transportation program that will take America into the 21st Century by building a modernized infrastructure and healthy communities where people can live, work and play.
The U.S. Green Building Council, “Understanding the Relationship Between Public Health and the Built Environment” a report which compiles extensive research on the health impacts of various land use patterns and transportation designs.
Sample Resources on Community Strategies
Essential Smart Growth Fixes for Urban and Suburban Zoning Codes explores 11 “Essential Fixes’; addressing the most common barriers local governments face in implementing smart growth. Topics include mixing land uses, fixing parking requirements, modernizing street standards, managing stormwater, and adopting smart annexation policies, among others. Each Essential Fix describes the problem or barrier and the actions that the community could take to overcome that barrier. These actions are organized as modest adjustments, major modifications, or wholesale changes to give communities options based on their political will, financial resources, and organizational capacity. Communities can apply parts of fixes or multiple fixes or entirely overhaul their codes.
Growing Smarter, Living Healthier: A Guide to Smart Growth and Active Aging intended for older adults who are interested in how our communities work and how we might help them become more ‘age-friendly.’ This guide addresses the basic principles of neighborhood and town design, and is intended to help one understand why community design matters, and how becoming involved in your community’s decisions about growth can make it a better place in which to grow old.
Leadership for Healthy Communities: Action Strategies Toolkit helps provide guidance on the best approaches policy-makers can use to make their states, communities and schools healthier places to live. The toolkit offers practical examples of policy approaches and resources covering a wide range of issues, including increasing access to parks and recreation centers, improving safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, offering healthier foods in schools, and attracting grocery stores that provide healthy, affordable foods to lower-income communities.
Local Government Actions to Prevent Childhood Obesity, Report Brief, September 2009: The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released this report to serve as a practical guide for government officials at the city, town, township or county level who want to take action to address healthy eating and active living. This report recommends 58 action steps organized under 15 broad strategies. In addition, the IOM Committee also highlighted 12 of the most promising strategies across the report.
Putting Smart Growth to Work in Rural Communities: Many rural communities are facing challenges, including rapid growth at metropolitan edges, declining rural populations, and loss of working lands. This report focuses on smart growth strategies that can help guide growth in rural areas while protecting natural and working lands and preserving the rural character of existing communities. These strategies are based around three central goals: 1) support the rural landscape by creating an economic climate that enhances the viability of working lands and conserves natural lands; 2) help existing places to thrive by taking care of assets and investments such as downtowns, Main Streets, existing infrastructure, and places that the community values; and 3) create great new places by building vibrant, enduring neighborhoods and communities that people, especially young people, don’t want to leave.
Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States – an MMWR report: contains 24 recommended obesity prevention strategies focusing on environmental and policy level change initiatives that can be implemented by local governments and school districts.
The Implementation and Measurement Guide includes measurement data protocols, a listing of useful resources, and examples of communities that successfully implemented each obesity prevention strategy.
School Bicycling and Walking Policies: Addressing Policies that Hinder and Implementing Policies that Help: Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the National Center for Safe Routes to School have released this jointly-developed resource to help encourage more walking and bicycling. This tip sheet was developed in response to numerous requests from across the country.