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Minnesota Department of Health

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 purpose of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) HIA Program is to create healthier environments for Minnesota citizens by supporting and increasing the capacity of MDH, local public health departments, and other organizations to conduct HIAs as a way to include possible health effects into transportation and planning decisions.

Program Contact:

Kristin Raab

Program Webpage

2014–2016 HIA Accomplishments

Bemidji MN 197 Corridor

MDH funded the Headwaters Regional Development Commission to conduct a rapid HIA on the MN 197 transportation corridor within the City of Bemidji, Minnesota. MN 197, the busiest and widest road in Bemidji, creates a possible barrier to biking and walking for people living in and around the corridor. The HIA recommendations will propose ways for MnDOT to redesign state route MN 197 to promote health. The City of Bemidji will also use the HIA recommendations to direct transportation improvements to the city streets that intersect MN 197.

GreenStep Cities Best Practices

The voluntary Minnesota GreenStep City program helps cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals. MDH used the HIA process to help the City of Marshall choose best practices to move up from a Step 2 to a Step 3 GreenStep City. MDH presented the findings of the HIA to the Marshall City Council and the Marshall GreenStep Cities Committee. Although the Marshall GreenStep Committee has not yet decided whether to adopt any of the recommendations, the HIA process itself has had a positive impact. The HIA identified a number of gaps in Marshall’s sidewalk infrastructure and raised local interest in improving connectivity and safety around elementary and middle schools. The City of Marshall and the Marshall Public School System filed a joint application for a Safe Routes to School Planning Grant, which could bring additional funds to support healthy community design in Marshall.

Highway 61 Corridor Redesign

Sawtooth Mountain Clinic led an HIA of the Highway 61 corridor redesign with the support of the local active living steering committee and technical assistance from MDH. The HIA assessed several components of the proposed corridor redesign: pedestrian and traffic safety, connectivity to core destinations within the City of Grand Marais and along the corridor, mobility/accessibility for people of all ages and abilities, and property values along the corridor. Planners used the HIA recommendations at several key points in the design process, and the two final concept plans are consistent with the HIA recommendations. The final design will not be chosen until the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) is ready to begin a more detailed design of the corridor. More recommendations from the HIA can be built into the upcoming design process to further support positive health impacts. After the HIA process, the City applied for and received Transportation Alternative Program (TAP) funds from MnDOT to fund the corridor reconstruction in 2019. The HIA may have played a role in the City receiving TAP funds sooner than originally scheduled.

Livable Communities Transit-Oriented Development

MDH conducted rapid HIAs on 7 transit-oriented development (TOD) project plans that received Livable Communities Demonstration Account (LCDA) grants. LCDA is a program of the Metropolitan Council, which is the regional policy-making body, planning agency, and provider of essential services for the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area. Nearly 3 million people live in the 7 counties of the metro area, which covers nearly 3,000 square miles. The Council funds innovative development projects that efficiently link housing, jobs, services, and transit to create livable communities. The final HIA report given to developers included recommendations for increasing economic opportunity, active living, and access to goods and services. Although developers indicated that they found the report informative and helpful, none of them made changes in their project designs. However, thanks to the HIA experience, the Metropolitan Council now includes health impacts in the LCDA grant selection process to encourage future applicants to consider health in their project plans.

MnDOT Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan

Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), in collaboration with MDH, will integrate HIA into the Statewide Multimodal Transportation Plan (SMTP) revision process to determine the impact of the state transportation system on health and equity. The SMTP is a long-term guidance document that lays the foundation for future planning and investment decisions for moving people and goods throughout Minnesota. MnDOT will use the HIA findings to incorporate health into the revised SMTP and direct its work plan for the next 4 years.

South Central Minnesota Climate Change Plan

MDH funded Region Nine Development Commission (RNDC) to conduct a rapid HIA on the goals, strategies, and action steps in the South Central Minnesota Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan. The plan will identify measurable climate change effects (such as reduced air quality, flooding, and other extreme weather events) and the populations most vulnerable to these effects in the nine counties in south central Minnesota served by RNDC. The HIA will guide the south central Minnesota climate adaptation planning process and recommend changes in land use patterns and the built environment to mitigate and/or adapt to those effects. The HIA recommendations are intended for review and adoption as appropriate by local governments in south central Minnesota, and, if suitable, by other local governments across the state.

Tools and Resources for HIA Practitioners

The Minnesota HIA program

  • Formed the MN HIA Coalition, which has more than 50 members to promote the use of HIA to improve the health of Minnesota communities. The Coalition sponsors conferences and trainings to build HIA capacity, including the first MN HIA Conference, that was held in November 2015.
  • Conducted in-person HIA trainings to educate local public health professionals, planners, designers and others on HIA methodology.
  • Delivered a 1-hour HIA 101 webinar. For a copy of the slides, please contact health.hia@state.mn.us.
  • Maintains the MDH HIA website maintains up-to-date resources for HIA practitioners, including announcements for upcoming HIA trainings and funding opportunities through local and national partners, updates on the MN HIA Coalition, and links to external tools such as the Minimum Elements and Practice Standards for HIA.

Partners

  • Homeland Security and Emergency Management
  • Metropolitan Council
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation
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