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CDC Awards Funds to Make Communities Healthier through Health Impact Assessments

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.


During the next 3 years, six state and local health departments will conduct Health Impact Assessments (HIAs) to ensure health is considered in transportation and land use planning decisions in their communities. To help fund those HIAs, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has awarded nearly $870,000 through its Healthy Community Design Initiative’s cooperative agreement “Health Impact Assessment for Improved Community Design.”

The six funding recipients are the Minnesota Department of Health; Arizona Department of Health Services; Georgia Department of Public Health; Oregon Health Authority, Public Health Division; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Department of Public Health; and San Francisco Department of Public Health. Through the HIAs, the recipients collectively have the potential to improve the health of 33 million citizens.

“Doctors advise their patients on how they can stay healthy. In many ways, an HIA provides the same advice to communities. This advice helps communities make informed choices about improving public health through community design,” said Sharunda Buchanan, director of the Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services in CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, home of the Health Community Design Initiative.

The HIA process helps evaluate the potential health effects of a plan, project, or policy before it is built or implemented. An HIA can provide recommendations to increase positive health outcomes and minimize adverse health outcomes. HIA brings potential public health impacts and considerations to the decision-making process for plans, projects, and policies that fall outside traditional public health arenas, such as transportation and land use. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends HIA as a planning resource for implementing efforts to meet Healthy People 2020 objectives ( HIA also supports two of the key components of the Office of the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy: Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments and Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices HIA also supports two of the Strategic Directions of the Office of the Surgeon General’s National Prevention Strategy [PDF – 4.6 MB]. They are Building Healthy and Safe Community Environments and Empowering People to Make Healthy Choices.

“Healthy community design is planning and designing communities that make it easier for people to live healthy lives,” said Arthur Wendel, team lead of CDC’s Healthy Community Design Initiative. “HIA helps communities achieve that goal and can educate local decision makers on how proposed land-use projects can affect community health. The Initiative has led the way in funding or providing technical assistance to one-third of the more than 200 HIAs conducted in the United States to date—and we continue to do so with these recent awards.”

For example, a CDC-funded HIA in Omaha, Nebraska, led to the county reducing the number of traffic lanes on a dangerous street. As a result, the street is more pedestrian-friendly, and the safety of the 15,000 people who drive it daily has been increased. Officials estimate the street has about 50 fewer motor vehicle crashes each year. Other examples of CDC-funded HIA success stories are available at Health Impact Assessment: Stories from the Field.

Expected outcomes for the six funding recipients during the funding period (2014-2017) include:

  • increased awareness of the linkages between community design and health,
  • enhanced capacity of staff who conduct health impact assessments,
  • increased knowledge about community design of decision makers, and
  • increased community collaboration to improve the built environment.

For more information on Health Impact Assessment, visit CDC’s Healthy Places.