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May 17, 2017 6:00 PMCategory: Health Equity

Leveraging Partnerships to Promote Healthy Communities

This was originally posted here on APA’s blog.

One of the first sessions at APA’s 2017 National Planing Conference, A Call to Action for Healthy Communities, brought APA’s commitment to partnerships to life.

Featuring representatives from APA’s Planning and Community Health Center, the American Institute of Architects, the American Public Health Association, the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Green Building Council, the panelists introduced the Joint Call to Action to Promote Healthy Communities.

Released earlier this year, the Call to Action engages 450,000 professionals from eight national organizations who recognize that the built environment — the way a community is designed and built from its buildings and public spaces to how we travel between communities — is a key determinant of health.


United by the common objective of creating and sustaining healthy buildings and spaces, the panelists described the four pillars of the partnership:

  1. Build Relationships
  2. Establish Health Goals
  3. Implement Strategies to Improve Health
  4. Share Expertise

While each national organization brings members with unique skills and areas of expertise, it is the power of collaboration and the connections across projects that will ensure communities are designed in ways that make the healthy choice the easy choice. Emphasizing the importance of community engagement and highlighting the unintended consequences of planning and design, the Call to Action is rooted in equity. The voices of those most impacted by built environment improvements must be part of the conversation.

Advancing the pillars through the implementation of evidence-based interventions is essential to making the case to business owners, local leaders, and citizens alike. Sharing the recently release recommendations from the Community Preventive Services Task Force, CDC representative Chris Kochtitzky relayed the findings of the systematic review of 90 studies:

  • Physical activity increased among individuals in communities with new or improved projects or policies combining transportation (e.g., pedestrian or cycling paths) with land use and design components (e.g., access to public parks).
  • Combinations of activity-supportive built environment characteristics were associated with higher levels of transportation-related physical activity, recreational physical activity, and total walking among exposed individuals.

Planners, as conveners and systems thinkers, are integral to the Call to Action and to advancing a comprehensive approach to healthy community design — and positive changes have already resulted from collaborative activities. APA’s Plan4Health initiative has brought together planners, public health professionals and community stakeholders to improve access to healthy foods and increase opportunities for active living across the country.

Interested in taking action?  Start right now!

  1. Today: Take APA’s planning and public health online course — or attend a health session at NPC17.
  2. Next week: Make a new friend and learn about health projects in your community by meeting a public health colleague for coffee.
  3. June: Look for APA’s new planning tool: Metrics for Planning Healthy Communities.
  4. July-August: Join APA as we share information about making healthier communities.
  5. September: Engage in the conversation at APA’s Fall Policy and Advocacy Conference as the organization celebrates its first health policy guide.
  6. Every Day: Let us know what you’re working on! Use #Build4Health and #Plan4Health.

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