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December 2015 Featured Article

Featured Article

Municipalities Funding New Community Development Work with Healthy Eating and Active Living Funds
Triad Associates

Improving bike trails, consensus building for a new school site or improving pedestrian safety at a busy intersection, are some examples of projects that health promotion funding is supporting. A tremendous amount of momentum is behind new policies tackling two large contributors to chronic disease: lack of physical activity and lack of access to nutritious foods.

Health Impact Assessments (HIA) policies are equipping local governments with the tools to consider development alternatives that have the least negative impacts on health and the cost savings associated with that decision. Other organizations are funding coalitions to implement strategies that promote healthier eating and active living.

According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is defined as: “a systematic process that uses an array of data sources and analytic methods and considers input from stakeholders to determine the potential effects of a proposed policy, plan, program, or project on the health of a population and the distribution of those effects within the population.” Completion of a HIA provides recommendations on monitoring and managing those effects.

Funding is increasingly becoming available for local governments to build the capacity of their health departments to have greater involvement in decision-making processes through the use of HIA, and extend their role in public policies that impact health outcomes and health equity. Data exists that can identify the costs associated with development decisions that do not create environments that encourage greater health and wellness.

Organizations like the New Jersey Healthy Communities Network are assisting local coalitions to pursue new plans and developments that promote these same objectives. The aid includes both technical assistance as well as funding. The coalitions that receive awards include government, for-profit and non-profits.

Cross-sector coalition building is also receiving funding support from the American Planning Association (APA) chapters and American Public Health Association (APHA) affiliate members. Referred to as the Plan4Health, this extension of APA’s Planning and Community Health Center is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Implementation and Dissemination for Chronic Disease Prevention Program. Through Plan4Health, $9 million dollars are to fund nationwide initiatives over three years to projects encouraging healthy eating and active living lifestyles.

Now in its first year, Plan4Health has already awarded $2.25 million to support 18 coalitions. Some of the funded projects include implementation of complete streets projects and policies, providing new grocer opportunities in food deserts, and creating farm-to-table programs for public schools.

To be successful, it is particularly important that coalition building and HIA policies are stakeholder driven. A good implementation strategy is key in administering funding from government programs. The process pulls together critical government and social agencies as well as resident and business participation.

Published December 2015.

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