Do Healthy Cities Matter?

By Maika Arnold
University of Cincinnati

The way we, as planners, have been planning our communities is making people sick and obese.

A public health official spoke to that issue on a session on healthy cities and urban design. I have noticed a trend during the conference on the focus on transit and sustainability.



Although there have been sessions on healthy cities, I’m wondering, is health a true concern of planners? And, if so, what are cities doing to make health a priority when new projects arise in a community?

In order to answer these questions, I will introduce some of the innovative ideas that I have heard about making cities healthier and vibrant to address the past planning mistakes that have not helped public health.

An interesting tool that I learned about and seems to be doing cutting edge analysis was developed in San Francisco. The “Healthy Development Measurement Tool” was created with a goal to support comprehensive and health initiatives. It was community driven and is used by responsive planning using a systematic method.

The Healthy City Vision incorporated in the HDMT has six objectives, which have four components: (1) Urban health and sustainability, (2) Development checklist, (3) Policy and design strategies, and (4) Evidence and Standards. An interesting aspect that planners can be involved with is the urban health and sustainability, which depends on maps to display data with over 100 indicators.


A community that has utilized the HDMT is Western SOMA in San Francisco. The project has been successful because of the unanimous support from all sides of the community: community members, the Health Department, Planning Commission, and Board of Advisors. They used full integration and utilized the development checklist in two stages. The design guidelines that they adopted from the Health Impact Assessment were that the area needed more public open space and noise control. The community took these guidelines and incorporated them into the design of the area, with an example being maintaining low-rise townhomes to support solar access.

The lessons learned from the HDMT tool in San Francisco were that collaboration is key and that sometimes there is a hierarchy of decision -making. In the example of Western SOMA, planners and developers were not the only decision makers in the process. The process happened because there were various participants involved.

A session on multimodal transformations depicted different ways of which different areas of Los Angeles have been addressing health issues in terms of transit. The examples that were given of how improvements and transformations have been: complete streets networking, pedestrian TODs, streetscape plans, streets for people, adding open space, and implementing mobility policy. Although these issues deal with transit, the idea is to create more active communities in hopes that the use of the automobile is curbed so that cities are healthier.

Various communities and planners have shown innovative ways in which communities can implement design guidelines and policies to encourage a built environment that incorporates health.

Healthy cities are critical in looking towards the future if we are keeping the interest of the people who live in our communities at the forefront of our work. In order to do so, it is necessary to seek innovative ways to promote active lifestyles through our vibrant communities.

APA asked some of the students attending the conference in Los Angeles to blog about their experiences. This is one of those posts.



Image: Walking and biking in San Luis Obispo, California. Photo by Dan Burden; downloaded at the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center.




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Sumber: http://blogs.planning.org/conference/2012/04/16/do-healthy-cities-matter/#more-646, diakses tanggal 19 Maret 2013.
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