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NEHA's land use planning & design program.

In cooperation with the National Center for Environmental Health/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (NCEH/CDC), NEHA is partnering with the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to educate environmental public health professionals and local government managers about the strategic advantages of integrating health goals and land use planning and design decisions. Specifically, NEHA and ICMA are currently developing case studies highlighting exceptional or creative solutions in local government that integrate environmental health considerations into land use planning and design.

Land use and community design decisions have a tremendous impact on a wide range of health and environmental issues. Land use policies can have unintended negative consequences for public health ranging from obesity and chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, cancer) to injuries related to traffic and pedestrian safety, and even to psychological stress. Shortsighted land use decisions can lower the quality of air and drinking water, causing additional negative impacts on human health. Community design, transportation, and land use planning decisions also have a direct bearing on access to health care, healthy environments in schools, housing and jobs, and overall quality of life for citizens. Since land use is traditionally a local-government issue, it is vital that local-government professionals understand the relationship with public health and collaborate across disciplines for more comprehensive strategies and solutions.

The partnership between ICMA and NEHA is therefore a strategic collaborative opportunity. Both organizations represent professionals who work in local government and who determine how new public knowledge and information will be implemented in communities across the country. City and county managers are the chief appointed officials of local government. As professional public administrators, they direct and coordinate the various department heads (including health department heads); thus, their participation is crucial to innovative, cross-disciplinary solutions that link public health with other activities.

NEHA launched a Land Use Planning survey in March of 2004. The purpose was to gather information about relationships environmental public health professionals have with land use planners, demographic information, level of knowledge about land use within individual agencies, funding methods, and local or state development plans. Results showed that 89 percent of respondents do communicate with a planning agency in some capacity. A second land use planning survey was launched in October 2005 to obtain new and comparative results. Ongoing collections of data such as this will provide NEHA with continual insight into the growth and improvement of land use planning.

Overall, the program aims to ensure that health considerations are an integral part of community design and land use decision-making processes, both to reduce health risks where citizens live, work, and play, and to improve the overall ability of Americans to maintain health and quality of life.

For more information on NEHA's Land Use Planning & Design program, please contact Susan Jerles, project specialist, at sjerles@neha.org, or follow the program link from www.neha.org/research/index.html.
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Title Annotation:National Environmental Health Association
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
Words:481
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