At the intersection of public health and urban planning, you can find the trend shaping policy across the United States: health impact assessment (HIA). Health impact assessments seek to manage both the effects of and the distribution of the effects on health from specific planning policies or practices. This is achieved by combining many procedures and the expertise of multiple professional areas: urban planners, doctors, architects, community organizers, academics, et cetera.
A relatively new specialization among planning and health professionals in the U.S., health impact assessments have been gaining traction in recent years with some help from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Health Impact Project funding program. Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have partnered to promote the use of health impact assessments nationwide by providing funding for communities to perform their own assessments, analyzing laws that could support the use of HIAs, and organizing a training network for practitioners.
One of the Health Impact Project’s current grantees is Healthy Neighborhoods for a Healthy Detroit, a conglomeration of Detroit, Michigan organizations that are analyzing the controversial Detroit Future City Framework through an HIA lens. The recently released Detroit Future City Framework has been met with a fair amount of criticism because of its basis in “smart decline” and its proposal to basically cut off many already disenfranchised neighborhoods across the city. This, along with accusations that the Detroit Works Project from which the Framework resulted, was not truly as inclusive and transparent as it has been made out to be, leaves Detroiters at a crossroads on the path to implementation.
The Detroit HIA will be looking directly at one of the most controversial aspects of the plan, the reduction of city services to high vacancy areas of the city, and their partners include many community organizations. It remains to be seen if the Detroit HIA process will inform the implementation of the Detroit Future City Plan and help the Detroit Works Project redeem itself.
How could a health impact assessment improve planning in your community?
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