Support local health impact assessments
States should encourage communities to assess the health impact of comprehensive land-use plans, zoning proposals, planned investments in transportation and other proposed infrastructure changes. Such assessments also can be applied to specific developments, including subdivisions, shopping centers, and streetscape or sidewalk redesigns.
Health impact assessments are similar to environmental impact assessments. While environmental impact assessments focus on such environmental outcomes as air and water quality, health impact assessments focus on health outcomes, such as obesity, physical inactivity, asthma and injuries. They also may address equity and other social issues tied to the impact of land-use changes. A major benefit of the process is that it brings public health issues to the attention of policy-makers outside the traditional public health realm, including transportation and land-use officials.
States can develop assessment tools and provide training on their use. Existing tools include the World Health Organization's Health Impact Assessment, Florida's Protocol for Assessing Community Excellence in Environmental Health, Michigan's Promoting Active Communities Self-Assessment tool, and North Carolina's Health and Wellness Trust Fund's Fit Communities Program.
State health agencies generally are well suited to carry out health impact assessments. In addition, the State can encourage local health impact assessments by providing financial and technical support to communities that choose to conduct them.
- Michigan's Promoting Active Communities Program
As part of a state initiative to encourage residents to be physically active, the Michigan Department of Community Health, the Michigan Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, Health and Sports, the Prevention Research Center of Michigan, and Michigan State University created the Promoting Active Communities Self-Assessment Program. The online tool allows communities to evaluate their policies and transportation networks. It is meant to facilitate cooperation between community leaders and residents so that they can identify ways to improve policies and designs. The State provides awards to communities each year based on their success in changing policies to encourage active living.
— Michigan’s Promoting Active Communities Program