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Incorporating "Health" in Comprehensive Plans

This section of WhatWorks presents examples of master and comprehensive plans that incorporate health as well as resources that provide guidance for incorporating health into such plans. Each plan or related resource has been shown to result in success for its respective community or is deemed to be useful to those considering the incorporation of public health and/or physical activity into their plans. While some plans might very well address health-related topics, such as preparedness and nutrition, at the present time, the focus of this guide is on physical activity.

For purposes of this guide, a comprehensive plan is defined as a long-term plan -- an official statement of government policy -- that includes a vision and strategies for the physical development of a community, whether it is a county or city; it sets a broad policy framework within which governments work to carry-out strategies and capital investments. A transportation plan -- usually included as a component of comprehensive plans as opposed to being standalone documents -- inventories existing transportation systems, forecasts population and employment growth, identifies and analyzes transportation needs and the impact of improvements, and designates a funding-constrained list of projects for a specified period of time. A pedestrian master plan provides an overview of the walking transportation network and identifies improvements that will enhance and encourage walking throughout a community.

NOTE: By no means is the following intended to be all inconclusive nor serve as a regulatory function.


2014 Austin Bicycle Master Plan
This plan reflects today's best practices in municipal planning for bicycle planning. Specifically, it highlights national and international standards that form the basis for the Plan. The Plan includes the guidelines set by the Austin comprehensive plan that establishes protected bike lanes and creates an environment that improves the safety of bicycling for all ages.
Source: Austin City Council


Active Living Plan – Appendix A of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan
The city of Rosemount, Minnesota integrated an Active Living Plan into the city’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan. The Active Living Plan examines the connection between the built environment and its impact on public health. Its purpose is to coordinate goals and policies between Land Use, Transportation, and Parks Chapters to implement the city’s active living vision.

Source: City of Rosemount; Rosemount City Council; Rousemount Planning Commission


Central Chester County: Bicycle and Pedestrian Circulation Plan 2013
The Central Chester County’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Circulation Plan establishes a timeline (immediate, short-term, long-term, and ongoing goals) for developing pedestrian, bicycle, and public transportation facilities to serve the municipalities of Chester County, PA. The long-term vision for the plan is to foster healthy, vibrant and economically viable communities that facilitate and encourage more walking and biking.

Source: Chester County Planning Commission and Chester County Health Department


Move This Way: Making Neighborhoods More Walkable and Bikeable
This is a guidebook for developing city codes that enable more active cities and towns. The guide includes specific examples of pedestrian and bicycle friendly city zoning and subdivision codes as well as policies and guidance on how to update existing codes.

Source: ChangeLab Solutions


Resource Guide for Healthy Community Planning: Framing Questions and Links to Data
This is a user-friendly resource guide to make it easier for planners to incorporate health considerations into their work. The guide contains a series of framing questions and corresponding links to resources. Each question is from the perspective of a planner wanting to incorporate health into planning. Case study examples and messaging ideas are also included which outline possible talking points when communicating the importance of health in planning.

Source: Washington American Planning Association


NashvilleNext; Healthy, Livability and the Built Environment
NashvilleNext -- a long-range plan intended to guide growth, development, and preservation over the next 25 years -- Includes a section entitled: Health, Livability & the Built Environment, acknowledging that a healthy community requires fundamental design values. One of the 3 priorities, cited in the section, is: "Maximize Built Environment to Improve Health." Additionally, 2 guiding transportation plans of NashvilleNext guide public and private investment for the street system, including creating complete streets that provide balanced and appropriate design for all modes of transportation. Support for active transportation & walkable communities is 1 of 3 major policy initiatives of the 2035 regional transportation plan for the Nashville area; see "Policies" tab.

Source: Nashville Planning Commission

Philadelphia2035 is a two-phase comprehensive plan that serves as a 25 year blueprint for physical development in the city. The first phase of the plan is a Citywide Vision, which presents objectives and strategies for specified goals that shall contribute to a stronger economy, a healthier population, and a smaller environmental footprint. The Vision addresses public health challenges, including high rates of chronic disease and obesity, and references the presence of the infrastructure necessary for healthy, walkable neighborhoods, though acknowledges that the majority of Philadelphians face significant environmental hurdles that contribute to unhealthful behaviors.

Source: Philadelphia City Planning Commission


Philadelphia Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan

In 2012, the Philadelphia City Commission published a Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan that offers a framework for pedestrian and bicycle planning, development and maintenance. The Plan has a goal of encouraging biking and walking to promote healthy, active living with specific corresponding measures. This Plan provides the foundation for districts throughout Philadelphia to utilize.

Source: Philadelphia City Commission


The Planning & Health Indicator List and Assessment Tool
The Tool was developed in conjunction with the City Planning Commission (PCPC) during the drafting of Philadelphia2035, the City of Philadelphia's Comprehensive Plan. It matches 20 of the Plan's objectives to a series of 71 measurable indicators used to measure progress towards each objective and incorporates demographic data on health outcomes to assist planners, decision-makers, and the general public in understanding the connections between the built environment and public health.

Source: Get Healthy Philly, an initiative of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH)

Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan

The Seattle Pedestrian Master Plan is a long-term action plan toward making Seattle the most walkable city in the nation. The plan establishes the policies, programs, design criteria, and projects that will further enhance pedestrian safety, comfort, and access in all of Seattle's neighborhoods. It has specified a "health goal" of promoting walking to improve health and prevent diseases and measures: self-reported physical activity and the number of children walking or biking to or from school. A detailed implementation matrix reflects the full list of actions that address the plan's focus on programs and policies.

Source: City of Seattle


2012 King County Comprehensive Plan
King County conducted a "Land Use, Transportation, Air Quality and Health Study," now know as HealthScape, drawing the link between sprawl, poor health, and greenhouse emissions. Notable conclusions include: people walk more in neighborhoods with a variety of and access to retail services; walking is most prevalent where transit is convenient/efficient; residents of more walkable areas are less likely to be overweight and more likely to be physically active; and residents in the most interconnected areas drive 25% fewer miles. The plan states that the study's findings will be utilized to update policies and plans to incorporate health, air quality and greenhouse gas emission reductions into land use, and transportation planning.

Source: King County Department of Permitting and Environmental Review; the comprehensive plan is done under the State Growth Management Act (GMA), which seeks to protect and enhance the quality of life in King County and the Pacific Northwest.


North Carolina Guide to Incorporating Health Considerations into Comprehensive Plans for the City of Raleigh
The Guide is a compilation of strategies that were researched and developed by practitioners throughout North Carol ina. While the goals and strategies are tailored to North Carolina, this Guide would be useful to anyone involved with the development of comprehensive plans -- including city planners, health officials, and community residents.

Source: North Carolina Division of Public Health - North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services


Fort Worth - 2015 Comprehensive Plan
The Fort Worth Plan has a goal to enhance the multimodal circulation network in which visitors, workers and residents may conveniently walk, drive, bike, or ride mass transit to destinations. It has an entire section entitled Public Health, including factors/data influencing health -- including, obesity and related chronic diseases.

Source: The Texas Local Government Code provides the legal basis for comprehensive plans.


Healthy Plan Making

This study is an in-depth, qualitative analysis of how public health has become a part of the municipal planning process. It provides context and background on collaboration between planning and public health departments, strategies for integrating public health-related goals and policies into the planning process, and successful mechanisms for implementation of goals and policies.

Source: American Planning Association


Denotes Pennsylvania resource

Last update: March 28, 2017. New documentation shall be added as it is identified.