Is your Master Plan Healthy?

Is Your Master Plan Healthy?
Policies that Shape Today’s Communities

Do you wonder if food will become a metric that municipalities will use to guide future development patterns and lands uses?

It appears that 2 topics have collided to shape land use policies in metropolitan areas – access to healthy food and physical activities.

Access to healthy food is being statistically evaluated and defined as food deserts.   Food deserts have been defined by the USDA as “parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas”.  Most definitions combine proximity (how far), access (mode of transportation) and income (affordability) to determine if a food desert exists.

The American Planning Association (APA) has partnered with the American Public Health Association (APHA) to anchor Plan4Health, a recent initiative that supports localized partnerships including schools, park and recreation departments and universities. The purpose is to “increase access to healthy food or increase opportunities for active living where residents live, work and play”

Public health is the underlying goal through “health in all policies (HiAP)”.  The strategy is to prioritize the topic of health through of variety of topics.  The available tool kit provides guideance for policy decisions to have a “neutral or beneficial impacts on the determinants of health”

The initiative includes both nutrition and physical activities – the converging topics that will shape the future landscape.

Both topics have physical space and land use requirements for a community or neighborhood plan. For example, nutrition directly relates to ideas of urban agriculture, farmer’s markets and grocers that provide healthy (and affordable) food.  Physical activities are being driven for the desire to incorporate complete streets, specifically addressing safe conditions for all modes of transportation.  Other forms of physical activities from trails, sports, playgrounds and recreation facilities, have been a component to planned communities for decades.

The convergence of nutrition and physical activity mean that developers need to carefully consider how these ideas can be integrated into the framework of the community plan. These topics are not additive to an existing land use strategy, but are integral ideas for the next generation of healthy living.

Whether through a voluntary master planning strategy or forced compliance, developing an appropriate, market-driven solution for healthy living is required.