Community design and public policies can have a significant impact on public health. Many health risks pose threats to the long-term vitality and productivity of cities; for example, by one calculation, the rising obesity epidemic incurs an annual direct and indirect cost of $147 billion. By addressing public health challenges, cities can improve quality of life and strengthen their economies. Local leaders are recognizing the role of urban food systems, zoning codes, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, public transit, air and water quality, and green space on residents’ health and wellbeing. NLC is helping cities identify and remove barriers to healthy, sustainable communities.
Healthy People, Healthy Places - Building Sustainable Communities Through Active Living (2011)
The ways in which we shape our built environment-including the range of transportation options, provision of open space, and accessibility to places of work, education, or basic services-contributes to the physical health of our communities by either restricting or facilitating opportunities for physical activity, recreation and community interaction. Local leaders play an important role in promoting public health through creating the conditions for individuals to incorporate healthy options into their daily lives. This guide explores several ways that cities are incorporating options to promote active living and emphasize the multiple connections to sustainability principles.
Developing a Sustainable Food System (2011)
Municipal governments are implementing policies and programs that allow residents to grow, sell, buy and eat more sustainably produced and locally grown foods, while strengthening the community and region. Comprehensive sustainability plans for food systems can include strategies to attract grocery stores in food deserts, improve support for urban agriculture and farmers' markets through zoning codes, and reduce food related waste by composting. This City Practice Brief covers a range of solutions from cities that seek to ease the environmental burden of their food system and cultivate economically strong local food sources.
CitiesSpeak Blog: Local Food for Economic Prosperity
Let's Move Cities and Towns
This initiative is a major component of First Lady Michelle Obama's signature initiative to reverse the nation's childhood obesity epidemic within a generation. Let's Move Cities and Towns targets one of America's gravest public health threats and emphasizes the critical leadership mayors and other city leaders can provide to spur local action. Participating cities and towns agree to take simple steps that promote healthy eating and physical activity, choosing strategies that make sense for their own communities.
Food Access as a Community Development Strategy (2010)
Access to healthy, affordable food is increasingly becoming a challenge for communities of all sizes. At this Congress of Cities workshop city representatives and experts in the field will review strategies that local leaders can use to increase access and discuss how these initiatives can contribute to broader community and economic development goals.
Nation's Cities Weekly Articles
The city of Omaha, Neb., undertakes a public-private partnership to provide basic physical healthcare services at schools, to improve student health and academic success.
Vilsack Focuses on Childhood Obesity, Let's Move! Campaign (December 12, 2010)
Addressing the Delegates Luncheon during the Congress of Cities & Exposition in Denver, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack called on local officials to address obesity and its consequences for public health, economic competitiveness and national security.
Mayors from 19 Mid South Cities Focus on Childhood Obesity and Public Health (November 22, 2010)
At a meeting in Jackson, Miss. to launch the Municipal Leadership for Healthy Southern Cities initiative, 19 mayors shared ideas for building healthy communities.
White House Invites Local Officials to Join Let's Move Cities and Towns Campaign (September 13, 2010)
Over the past three decades, childhood obesity rates in the U.S. have tripled. First Lady Michelle Obama has called on cities and towns across the country to join her Let's Move! campaign to reverse this public health threat and protect children from obesity-related disease.
NLC Report Highlights City-School Partnerships to Combat Obesity (May 3, 2010)
A new NLC report, "Community Wellness: Comprehensive City-School Strategies to Reduce Childhood Obesity," focuses on lessons learned by cities that, with technical assistance from NLC, sought to develop and implement local wellness strategies to combat childhood obesity.
NLC Commends First Lady's Work to Reduce Childhood Obesity (February 15, 2010)
NLC praised First Lady Michelle Obama for recognizing both the public health threat posed by childhood obesity, and the role that municipal leaders need to play in promoting nutrition and fitness in the nation's communities.
Tax Increment Financing: A Tool for Advancing Healthy Eating and Active Living
Cities seeking to support healthy communities can use creative financing mechanisms such as public-private partnerships, tax incentives and federal or foundation grants. This policy brief from Leadership for Healthy Communities examines Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a potential source of funding for initiatives that promote healthy eating and active living.
Safe Routes to School
This publication describes strategies for improving pedestrian and bicycle routes to schools. By focusing on safety, cities can increase the number of children choosing to bike or walk by 20% to 200%. The benefits of Safe Routes to School programs go beyond traffic safety, better air quality around schools, and reduced traffic congestion: many schools are pursuing this initiative as part of their school wellness and health activities. Increasing physical activity among children is an essential part of city public health programs.
Understanding the Basics of Climate Change and Public Health: A Local Official's Guide
Climate change is having and will continue to have impacts on public health, ranging from heat waves to more extreme snow storms, from flooding to water shortages, from new insect-borne diseases to higher rates of asthma. Public officials must be prepared to adapt cities to a changing climate and protect those populations at risk of public health threats. This paper by the Institute for Local Government details the public health effects that local officials can anticipate, as well as strategies for adaptation.
Physical Inactivity Cost Calculator for Policy-Makers
This tool from East Carolina University provides an estimate of the financial cost associated with a physically inactive population, including medical care, workers compensation and lost productivity. The tool also provides companion resources and information about re-allocating resources and planning for healthier workplaces and communities that support physically active lifestyles.
Active Design Guidelines
A city's design plays a crucial role in contributing to or counteracting public health threats. Historically, the design of streets, water systems and parks helped cities overcome cholera and tuberculosis epidemics. Today, architectural and urban design techniques can encourage physical activity and healthy eating to combat obesity and related chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. The New York City Department of Design and Construction created the Active Design Guidelines to provide architects and urban designers with a manual of strategies for creating healthier buildings, streets, and urban spaces, based on the latest academic research and best practices in the field.
Creating a Regulatory Blueprint for Healthy Community Design: A Local Government Guide to Reforming Zoning and Land Development Codes
Zoning and land use codes determine the use of physical space in cities and towns, with significant impacts on the environment, economy and public health. Code changes can capitalize on the built environment's capacity to allow active transportation, easy access to healthy food, and economically strong cities. This report by the International City/County Management Association provides a strategic framework for reforming zoning and related development codes to encourage the design of more compact, vibrant, and healthy communities.
Healthier Communities Through Redevelopment: Rebuilding Neighborhoods for Better Nutrition and Active Living
This guide from Public Health Law & Policy explains the process and funding mechanisms of redeveloping blighted areas and outlines a variety of ways to partner with local agencies on community revitalization projects to ensure that opportunities for better nutrition and active living are included in the plan.