Baltimore City Health Department
This website is archived for historical purposes and is no longer being maintained or updated.
The Healthy Community Design Initiative, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, is no longer a funded program and the information on this website is not being reviewed and updated on a regular basis.
The Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) views health impact assessment as a critical component of its “Health in All Policies” approach to public health.
2011–2014 HIA Accomplishments
Aquatics Master Plan
In 2012, the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks (BCRP) drafted an aquatics master plan (AMP) that laid out a 5–10 year vision for the City’s public pool system. BCHD conducted an HIA on the AMP to determine what populations would receive the greatest health benefits from increased access to pools. The HIA identified high priority areas as those with lower income, lower access to vehicles, and lack of similar facilities. To ensure the City’s aquatic system serves the needs of all residents, the HIA recommended that BCRP develop and use health-based criteria, such as age distribution, income level, and availability of public transit, when deciding what facilities to close or upgrade and where to locate new facilities. BCRP updated the AMP several times during the HIA process based on community input; however, BCHD worked continually with BCRP to ensure that the HIA recommendations would be applicable and considered in the 2014 AMP revisions. BCRP used the information in the HIA to promote health equity and access to aquatic facilities for all residents, especially vulnerable populations and those without access to other recreation and physical activity opportunities.
Baltimore Bike Share
This HIA examined the potential health impacts of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation’s (DOT) new bike share plan on City residents, especially vulnerable populations. The HIA addressed issues of access, affordability, and equity; it recommended that DOT expand the bike share system into low-income areas where bicycle access can help connect residents to public transit hubs, healthy food outlets, and other daily needs. DOT incorporated some HIA recommendations related to bicycle design, location, and affordability into the request for proposals. In 2016, Baltimore Bike Share was launched with 50 stations and hundreds of standard electric pedal-assist bicycles.
Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project
Baltimore’s Disaster Preparedness and Planning Project (DP3) provides a unified approach to hazard mitigation and climate adaptation and addresses the City’s vulnerability to severe hazard events. BCHD conducted an HIA on one element of the DP3—increasing the City’s urban tree canopy. The HIA identified physical and environmental health impacts and recommended prioritizing certain areas of the City for action. Because of the HIA, the 2013 DP3 plan included a strategy to “increase the urban tree canopy and target areas with urban heat island impacts.”
This HIA assessed the health impacts and potential health equity issues of the redevelopment strategies proposed by the Mayor’s Office for the Downtown-Westside neighborhood, Baltimore’s historic commercial district. The neighborhood is home to the University of Maryland and the 240-year-old Baltimore City Lexington Market, but also suffers from crime and blight. The HIA recommended strategies that would benefit the health of all neighborhood residents, including the most vulnerable populations, by addressing economic opportunity, multimodal transportation, personal safety, and social cohesion. From the outset, BCHD and the Mayor’s Office expected the HIA findings and recommendations to be considered in the Downtown-Westside Implementation Plan. As part of the ongoing revitalization process, this HIA encouraged mixed-use development and pedestrian infrastructure and had a positive impact on residents of the Westside neighborhood.
"Green Pattern Book" Open Spaces
The Baltimore City “Green Pattern Book,” part of the City’s Growing Green Initiative, describes eight ways to use vacant land to create greener neighborhoods. This HIA analyzed the health impacts of one of the eight methods: creating community-managed open spaces such as community gardens and pocket parks. The findings of the HIA helped guide the final Green Pattern Book and its implementation strategy. In 2014, the City announced the seven winning projects of the Growing Green Design Competition: Vacant Lots Transformed and awarded winners nearly $300,000 to design and construct their concepts in Baltimore neighborhoods.
Liquor Store Zoning Provision
In response to a previous HIA conducted by Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore City committed to reducing the density of alcohol outlets. The City’s proposed zoning code revision included a provision for nonconforming liquor stores to stop selling alcohol. While the zoning legislation was under review, BCHD conducted a follow-up HIA evaluating how adopting the liquor store zoning provision could affect the health of residents. The HIA recommended converting former liquor stores to healthier food or retail stores and taking steps to improve neighborhood social cohesion. BCHD provided information from the HIA to the City council committee reviewing the relevant portion of the proposed zoning code.
St. Paul and Calvert Streets Two-Way Conversion
BCHD collaborated with Baltimore City DOT to conduct an HIA on a proposed plan to convert two corridors (St. Paul and Calvert streets) from one-way to two-way traffic. The HIA evaluated the impact of changes in car, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic patterns, as well as economic development, on the health and well-being of residents and business owners. The HIA recommendations to Baltimore City DOT emphasized design elements to increase safety and promote active transportation (walking and bicycling) for both one-way and two-way options.
Vacants to Value program
Baltimore’s Vacants to Value Program is a multiagency effort to encourage the purchase of City-owned vacant properties to stimulate economic growth and investment in communities with high vacancy rates. This HIA demonstrated how the program could affect health determinants and recommended that the Baltimore City Housing Authority incorporate health considerations into the developer selection process. As a result, the Housing Department invited BCHD to serve on its developer selection committee for current and future Vacants to Value development projects.
West North Avenue Streetscape
The Neighborhood Design Center (NDC) led a community-driven initiative to develop the West North Avenue Streetscape Conceptual Master Plan. This HIA assessed how individual design elements in the plan could affect health. NDC used the HIA results to help prioritize implementation of the plan’s proposed design elements.
Tools and Resources for HIA Practitioners
The Baltimore City Health Department
- Developed Neighborhood Health Profiles for every neighborhood in the City
- Supplied key health data to the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance
- Baltimore City Department of Housing and Community Development
- Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks
- Baltimore City Department of Transportation
- Baltimore City Planning Department
- Baltimore Office of Sustainability
- Citizen’s Planning and Housing Association
- Housing Authority of Baltimore City
- Neighborhood Design Center
- Page last reviewed: March 20, 2017 (archived document)
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