Creating Healthy Places


  • Appreciate how to use a new APA Planners Press resource, Creating Healthy Neighborhoods, in specific communities

  • Update knowledge about key connections between health and neighborhood planning using recent research

  • Understand how the process of planning neighborhoods, as well as the substance, is shaped by a health lens

  • Develop a better grasp of domains in which health and place are connected but that have not been researched, and how to fill those gaps with guidance based on conceptual frameworks about how health and place are related


Planners, designers, civic leaders, and activists seeking to change existing neighborhoods and districts or to revise proposals to make them healthier face a complex challenge. They need to consider a variety of topics relevant to health — from air quality to social interaction — and scales, from the blocks that make up the district to the town or city they are embedded in. They also need to know the limits of how much the physical neighborhood environment can affect health. How much does a place matter compared with other sources of health and healthy behaviors from biology to culture? Healthy built environments are as much about how a place is used, maintained, and priced as they are about physical development and redevelopment. Policies matter. A beautiful play area that is too expensive to use is a visual amenity only. This course helps planners, urban designers, activists, and public officials gain access to and assess the most recent evidence base on healthy places.

However, making the leap from research to action can be tricky, for three main reasons:

  • In some topical areas there is a great deal of research that needs to be evaluated. Unfortunately it is often highly specific, requiring much sorting and analysis to find the big picture. This is the case even when only considering one scale, that of the neighborhood or district of a few hundred to a few thousand people or few hectares to a few hundred hectares or acres. While there may be summaries of the research they do not necessarily specify actions.

  • In addition, there will never be research on everything of importance as there is so much environmental variation so some kind of bridge is needed between theory and practice.

  • Finally, much work on the connections between health and place focuses on the substance of the connections between health and the built environments. To actually make change to places requires knowledge of both — process and substance. Further, the process is complex from prioritizing health issues and engaging stakeholders to finding the right tools for incorporating health into plans and programs.