Planning for Health

The design of a community can affect the health of those who are a part of it.  Community planners can provide leadership at the local level to develop and implement plans, policies and ordinances that result in land uses and a built environment conducive to community health.  This webpage provides resources to help planners and local officials get started on planning for a healthy, active community.

Guides for Healthy Planmaking

A community's master plan can acknowledge the connections between health and the environment and facilitate changes for a healthy community in two significant ways:

  • Increasing the awareness of what a "healthy"community looks like by applying a health "lens" to the community's vision for the future; and
  • Modifying the environment by guiding how zoning and development regulations and municipal policies can support the goal of a healthy community for all.

The resources below provide practical guidance for both approaches:


MAP's Planning for Health: A How-To Guide for Communities

This 30-minute webinar explores why planners and local officials should plan for community health, their role in the process and the steps to take to incorporate a vision of health into the community's master plan.  


Healthy Plan Making Fact Sheet (American Planning Association’s Planning and Community Health Center)

"The comprehensive plan and the planning process can be used as tools for creating an environment that makes the healthy choice the easiest choice. A comprehensive plan is a guide for improving quality of life, promoting economic development, and creating livable spaces, all of which improve community health.

"In 2010, the American Planning Association, with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, began a three-year study to assess the integration of public health into comprehensive plans and their development process. This fact sheet lists strategies commonly used in the planning process to create vibrant communities, shows their connection to public health, and identifies best practices from across the country."


Healthy Plan Making: Integrating Health Into the Comprehensive Planning Process, by Anna Ricklin and Nick Kushner (American Planning Association's Planning and Community Health Research Center)

"Considering the impact of comprehensive planning, including the new generation of sustainability plans, on social, economic and environmental conditions, there is a need to explore the ways in which jurisdictions are beginning to include public health goals and objectives as part of the comprehensive planning process.

"This study is the first to provide an in-depth, qualitative case study analysis of how public health became a part of the planning process."


How to Create and Implement Healthy General Plans (ChangeLab Solutions & Raimi + Associates, 2012)

"This toolkit provides users with a logical progression of steps that can build upon one another, without mandating a fixed entry point. It is organized around a process of engagement, from building relationships and assessing existing conditions to creating and ultimately implementing policy language. The toolkit includes the following sections:

  • Laying the Groundwork for Healthy Planning
  • Assessing Existing Conditions
  • Writing a Healthy General Plan
  • Model Health Language
  • Implementation Policies, Plans, Programs, and Standards
  • Research on Land Use and Health from Two Different Perspectives"


Healthy Michigan: Healthy Communities Tools and Resources 

This webpage provides a variety of resources to support Michigan's 4 x 4 Plan, including a community coalition assessment tool and a healthy communities toolkit.

Plan4Health Toolkits

The American Planning Association (APA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA) have created the Plan4Health partnership to build cross-sector coalitions that focus on community health.  As part of this initiative, Plan4Health has created an impressive array of resources for practitioners and community members on active living, nutrition and health in all planning policies, including the toolkits below.  For more resources, go to the Plan4Health Peer Learning Network.



Active Living Toolkit (Plan4Health)
"Plan4Health coalitions approach active living by considering how the built environment supports or hinders active living. Do neighborhoods have sidewalks, bike lanes, and calm traffic? Are there trees, parks, and trails that are safe and accessible for everyone? 

"This toolkit offers a snapshot of reports, webinars, toolkits, community examples, videos, podcasts, and more about active living in Plan4Health."

  • Active commuting
  • Complete streets
  • Natural design


Food Systems Toolkit (Plan4Health)

"Plan4Health coalitions approach food systems by identifying the many inputs and outputs that impact a community’s access to healthy food. Do schools serve nutritious lunches to their students? Do neighborhoods have access to corner stores, grocery stores, farmers markets, and gardens that supply a range of food at affordable prices? 

"This toolkit offers a snapshot of reports, webinars, toolkits, community examples, videos, podcasts, and more about food systems in Plan4Health."

  • Grow
  • Distribute 
  • Connect


Health in All Policies Toolkit (Plan4Health)

"Health in All Planning Policies derives from Health in All Policies, a concept that explains how health is connected to many, if not all, other sectors and should therefore always be a consideration when making decisions. It is an effective strategy for addressing complex factors that influence health and is a collaborative approach to ensuring that health is considered throughout various planning processes.

"This toolkit offers a snapshot of reports, webinars, toolkits, community examples, videos, podcasts, and more about a health in all planning policies approach in Plan4Health."

  • Plans
  • Communications
  • Coalition building
  • Data Collection

Assessment Tools

Assessment tools help practitioners and local officials take stock of their existing plans and policies or help determine the potential health effects of a proposed action or project. Here are two helpful tools:


Healthy Comprehensive Plan Assessment Tool (ChangeLab Solutions)

HCPAT is an online tool developed by ChangeLab Solutions to guides you through an assessment of your community’s comprehensive plan to help you evaluate the strength of its health-related policies. The assessment covers four key areas: Complete Streets, Complete Neighborhoods, Environmental Health, and Healthy Food Systems.



Health Impact Assessment Toolkit for Planners (American Planning Association's Planning and Community Health Research Center, 2016)

"Many planning professionals have found that HIA is an effective way to integrate the fields of planning and health through assessing the health impacts of a specific plan, policy, or project. 

The toolkit begins with background about the overlapping values between HIA and planning, and an overview of HIA generally. Next, the toolkit employs a conceptual model to demonstrate how HIA can add value to the planning process at various points in the planning process. Then the toolkit provides guidance on each of the six HIA steps, focused on guiding planners through this process. Finally, the toolkit concludes with advice from HIA practitioners, ideas for other ways to integrate health into planning, and an appendix with links to resources."

Michigan Examples - Master Plans


City of Holland Master Plan

As part of the initial data collection for the plan, the City explored health trends identified in the Ottawa and Allegan Counties' Community Health Assessments. Concerns included the need to improve the number of healthcare providers, transportation access to healthcare, high rates of obesity in adults, poor vegetable and fruit consumption in the population overall, and excessive alcohol use.

The plan includes a stand-alone chapter on social services and community health, and health considerations are also included throughout the plan.  

This page last updated on 7/13/2017.

Copyright 2005 Michigan Association of Planning, A Chapter of the American Planning Association
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