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Incorporating considerations of health impacts into land use development approval processes:
Development of a health background study framework

Original Article By: Brent W. Moloughney and Gayle E. Bursey and Jana Neumann
Canadian Journal of Public Health null
Major Topic: Governance
Minor Topic: Land Use

Précis:Health promotion has limited effects in advancing physical activity because the need for physical activity has been systematically removed. The built environment can be a help or a hindrance to a population’'s health levels. Evidence based reviews suggest a broad range of health conducive policies.


         Some population health advancing policies are: 1) infrastructure for bicycling and walking; 2) local schools within walking distance; 3) public transportation services; 4) mixed use development with mixed access to residential, school, work, retail and public spaces; 5) enhanced personal and traffic safety in place of common physical activity; and 6) improved walkability or pedestrianism.


         Applications of policies to encourage physical activities also come with serendipitous benefits: 1) reduced traffic-caused air pollution; 2) improved mental health and social well-being; 3) transportation equity; and 4) better support for aging populations.


         Urban planners and Public health should work together to develop frame works to integrate health considerations on to the many levels of plans (from the Official Plan to the individual Site Plans) so as to promote positive health outcomes in land use policies and procedures and a more healthy development model.


         Toronto and the Peel region have moved forward on this incrementally. First they compiled a Health Development Index (HDI) made up of the seven elements of the built environment that the empirical evidence has shown to have the highest association with health. The seven elements are: 1) density; 2) service proximity; 3) land use mix; 4) street connectivity; 5) road network and sidewalk characteristics; 6) reduced parking; and 7) Aesthetics and human scale.


         Second, in consultation with stakeholders and a situational assessment it was decided by the Peel region that a new and separate tool was needed to facilitate a complete and publicly transparent implementation process. Hence a Health Background Study (HBS) was arrived at.


         A Health Background Study’s Terms of Reference (ToR) give guidance on the study requirements developers need to address as they prepare their application. For each element in the HDI minimum standards based on best practices and expert study were developed. The ToR led to minor adjustments through consultations and the creation of a user guide.


         The Peel Region and their municipal governments are currently adjusting their Official Plans to allow for the use of a HBS. They will also need to adjust by-laws, community improvement plans, transportation master plans, urban design guidelines and secondary plans. Some municipalities in the Peel region are already requiring health assessments as part of a complete application for development proposals.


Added on: 2015-04-06 14:03:03
Précis by: James Jeff McLaren
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