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Incorporating "Health" into Planning

This section of WhatWorks presents examples of comprehensive plans and active/master transportation 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 useful to those considering the incorporation of public health and/or physical activity into their plans.

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 carryout strategies and capital investments.

A Master Transportation plan—usually included as a component of comprehensive plans or a standalone document -- 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.

A Pedestrian/Bicycle or Active Transportation plan provides an overview of the walking and biking transportation network and identifies improvements that will enhance and encourage walking and biking throughout a community.

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

Comprehensive Plans

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

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

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
  • 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


Fort Worth - 2017 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: Fort Worth City Council and City Plan Commission

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 three priorities, cited in the section, is: "Maximize Built Environment to Improve Health." Additionally, two leading transportation plans (Volume V) 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.

Source: Nashville Planning Commission

City of Portland,Oregon: 2035 Comprehensive Plan
The 2035 Comprehensive Plan demonstrates the commitment to linking land use and transportation decisions. It expands the reasons for, and approaches to, improving Portland as a place that is walkable, bike-able and transit-friendly with active main streets. The Plan continues Portland’s commitment to compact development, with active employment centers, expanded housing choice, and access to parks and open space.

Source: The Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability

West Palm Beach, Florida: Comprehensive Plan – Transportation Element
The Transportation Element identifies the major priorities the City needs to address in order to ensure the development of a transportation system that increases the quality of life for its residents and visitors while providing for a variety of transportation choices that help reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it provides the policy basis for the traffic-calming improvements by identifying a number of traffic-calming efforts, including: vertical changes in the street (e.g., speed humps, speed tables, raised intersections), lateral changes in the street (e.g., chicanes, offset intersections, lateral shifts), constrictions (e.g., narrowings, pinch points, islands), narrow pavement widths (e.g., medians, edge treatments), entrance features, traffic circles, and small corner radii and related streetscapes (e.g., surface textures, edge treatments and colors, landscaping, street trees and furniture).

Source: Design for Health, the City of West Palm Beach

Active/Master Transportation Plans

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

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


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 in the development of their own plans.

Source: Philadelphia City 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

Salt Lake City Pedestrian & Bike Plan

Building off the original Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan from 2004, the 2015 plan leads Salt Lake City boldly into a new era where people of all ages and abilities can comfortably travel on foot or by bike. The plan outlines goals and objectives, proposes a 20-year build-out of bicycle facilities, and recommends changes to City processes and non-infrastructure programs.

Source: Source: Alta Planning + Design

Other Planning Resources

Move This Way: Making Neighborhoods More Walkable and Bikeable
This is a guidebook for developing city codes that help create 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

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)

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

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: June 13, 2017. New documentation shall be added as it is identified.