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Thread: How to combine public health/health promotion and urban planning

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
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    How to combine public health/health promotion and urban planning

    I have a masters degree in public health (primarily health promotion and mental health with a bit of physical activity) and I am now returning to urban planning (bachelors degree) after a hiatus. I have a real interest in land use planning and development but having said that I also want to move into an area where I could make use of and leverage my public health credentials in order to land a good job or take advantage of a niche or emerging health related urban planning area. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Thank you kindly as I really do appreciate your valuable insights into the realities and opportunities out there...I am excited but I must say I am also a little freaked out about making this move.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    There is a good amount of work being done in Planning around nutrition and physical activity. This involves a wide range of activities from promoting more walkable places (making sure new ones are walkable and adapting older ones to be more so, land use and zoning changes to encourage smaller local business areas, etc.) to organizing activities that inspire regular activity (especially with children - Safe Routes to School is a good example) and nutrition education (again, especially in schools).

    A great organization based in Philadelphia called the Food Trust is also concerned with ensuring that people living in urban areas have access to high quality, raw foods. You can see on their website that this is a serious undertaking. They even have a fund to help supermarket chains locate in poor areas. They do work in schools around nutrition and also in corner stores, where they found most teenagers get a majority of their daily caloric intake. http://www.thefoodtrust.org/

    The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation also has a program called Active Living which funds and promotes organizations that promote activity and otherwise address nutritionally related disease. They also support public health research in this area and the results are all available on their website: http://www.activelivingresearch.org/

    Even trail development and enhanced, non-motorized mobility is often linked to or justified by public health issues.

    That should get you started. From what I have seen, nutrition and activity are the big topics right now as they relate to our nation's growing battle with nutritionally related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, etc.
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  3. #3
    HI


    This is my line of work. You should also go to the CDC's website, Congress for the New Urbanism is good, I think the American Planning Association has some info on this as does the American Public Health Association. I will look around for more info.

    There are local efforts as well.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Plus
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    A collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts,
    the Health Impact Project is a national initiative designed to promote the use of HIAs as a decision-making tool for policymakers.

    http://www.healthimpactproject.org/
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  5. #5
    Substantively, i think this would involve promoting more environmental factors for public health in agencies and organizations, instead of behavioral factors. For instance, in a given agency there may be too much emphasis on encouraging behaviors that aren't physically accommodated well in the community, such as walking in auto-dominated subdivisions. These are important factors, but require a lot of communication between public health departments and planning departments.

    In every reasonably sized community there are public health officials and advocates encouraging healthy behaviors, but sometimes that doesn't cross over in the land use decisions made.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by sneakers View post
    I have a masters degree in public health (primarily health promotion and mental health with a bit of physical activity) and I am now returning to urban planning (bachelors degree) after a hiatus. I have a real interest in land use planning and development but having said that I also want to move into an area where I could make use of and leverage my public health credentials in order to land a good job or take advantage of a niche or emerging health related urban planning area. Does anyone have any suggestions for me? .
    Personally IMHO the profession is behind on this. Look up Pierce Co (WA) Public Health Dept. They are heavily into it and do community assessments and all that. 4 maybe 5 years ago I went to one of their seminars - maybe 125 in attendance IIRC - and they were struggling to make contact with the planning profession - indeed there were only a handful of us there.

    I think the Smart Growth movement is trying to get there but still has a ways to go, if only for a paucity of good data and robust results for justification of particular patterns. I'm looking at code/plans for a large city for their patterns, and the 'purpose' text I'm likely going to recommend lightening up on some health language. Also, I'll be touching on this in Seattle at the SG conf in February in the context of something else, stating we're not there yet...

    So hurry up and finish so we can go faster! ;o)

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