Planning and Health


Planning deals with the design, development, and organization of cities, towns and municipalities. Plans—products of the planning process—lay out a vision and strategy for the physical (built environment), social, and economic development of an area. Because planning shapes the places where we live, work and play, it also influences the vital community conditions for health and well-being that we all need to thrive. Planning professionals are uniquely positioned to promote health and well-being by anticipating, designing, and implementing healthy spaces that improve air quality, encourage physical activity, increase mobility, and preserve green space.

Evidence Base

Community Design
Land Use and Zoning
Community Engagement
Plans set a long term vision and shape the built, social, and economic environment through policy and strategies. These policies and strategies can integrate health and well-being priorities and lead to long-term, sustainable health promotion.
Community design that makes it easier for people to live healthy lives (e.g., designing more walkable, accessible, and age-friendly neighborhoods, improved connectivity, active transportation and infrastructure) promotes physical activity, social connection and sense of community, improved air quality, and improves safety.
Land use and zoning policies regulate where activies can occur in a community, shaping the built environment over time. Land use policies stipulate where to site entities that are both health promoting (such as recreation facilities) and health harming (such as industry). These policies can influence people’s behaviors, experiences, and physical health.
Including authentic, inclusive, community engagement as a part of planning processes builds belonging and civic muscle and sheds light on health and well-being opportunities.
Improved access to vital community conditions
Improved health and well-being outcomes, including access to food and jobs, active transportation and recreation, physical activity and chronic health conditions
Increase in physical activity and reduced chronic disease
Improved social connection and sense of community
Improved air quality and reduced GHG emissions
Reduce exposure to environmental hazards
Improved medium- and long-term health and well-being outcomes, including access to food and jobs, active transportation and recreation, physical activity and chronic health conditions

Increased belonging and civic muscle

*Adapted from The Pew Charitable Trusts Health Impact Assessment Can Inform Planning to Promote Public Health

Featured Resources

HIAs in Planning

HIAs often examine planning decisions and their impact on community health and well-being.

Many HIAs that pertain to planning are focused on a specific kind of plan (general or comprehensive plans, bicycle and pedestrian plans); others look at a planning-related policy or consider implementation of a project or policy. HIA can inform a broad range of planning-related issues, including land use, development regulations, public finance, disaster mitigation and climate change. HIAs can add value to planning by improving data, promoting community engagement and cross-sector collaboration, and reframing issues around shared health goals.


St. Louis Park Comprehensive Plan

In 2010, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) received a grant from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the Centers for Di...

West North Avenue Streetscape Plan

The Baltimore City Health Department conducted an HIA of the West North Avenue Streetscape Plan, an urban redevelopment project for a major east-west corridor i...

Tampa Brownfields Redevelopment Plan

The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County conducted an HIA on the EPA Brownfields Area-Wide Plan, a proposal to redevelop various sites in Tampa...

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