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CDC’s Healthy Community Design Initiative Steps It Up!

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.

How the program’s goals and activities support the
U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities

Step It Up! Surgeon General's Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities

The Healthy Community Design Initiative(HCDI) promotes active communities through its overarching goal to create environments that prevent disease and injury by providing people convenient and safe opportunities to walk, bicycle, or use public transit.

The five goals in the U.S. Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities [PDF – 1.28 MB] call for action by several sectors of society, including those that are HCDI’s key partners: transportation, land use, and community design; parks and recreation.

HCDI’s past, current, and future activities support several objectives of the report, particularly goals 4 and 5, which address educating stakeholders and filling data and research gaps.

Call to Action Goal 4, Strategy 4C
Educate relevant professionals on how to promote walking and walkability
through their profession

HCDI promotes and supports the development of cross-sector educational opportunities to encourage the design of walkable communities.

Specifically, HCDI works with partners such as:

  • The American Planning Association (APA), National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU), and New Partners for Smart Growth to ensure:
    – Walking and walkability sessions are incorporated into their annual national conferences.
    – The latest in walking and walkability research is incorporated into online trainings, such as the APA/NACCHO Health Impact Assessment (HIA) course and CNU’s New Urbanism certification course and on-site core curriculum training.
  • The U.S. National Park Service to create a Parks, Trails, and Health Workbook [PDF – 1 MB] for planners, park and recreational professionals, and health practitioners to help them include public health considerations in development of a park or trail.

Call to Action Goal 5, Strategy 5A
Improve quality and consistency of surveillance data collected
about walking and walkability

In addition to improving national surveillance on transportation and health measures, HCDI is also working to ensure user-friendly data are easily accessible to decision-makers at the local and state levels.

  • HCDI and the U.S. Department of Transportation are partnering to develop a simple-to-use online transportation and health tool. Now, for the first time, it will be possible for transportation decision-makers to understand how their community or state compares to those of their peers in terms of key health and transportation indicators.
  • The HCDI-funded biennial Bicycling and Walking in the United States: Benchmarking Report compiles data on bicycling and walking behavior, infrastructure, programs, and policies in all 50 states, the 52 largest U.S. cities, and a number of midsized cities. It is a go-to resource for public officials, advocates, decision-makers, and researchers. The next report is due in early 2016.
  • HCDI continues to enhance CDC’s online Environmental Public Health Tracking Network with data on community design. The most-recent updates include indicators on access to parks and on walking and bicycling to work.

Call to Action Goal 5, Strategy 5B
Address research gaps to promote walking and walkability

HCDI conducts analysis and evaluation activities to build the evidence base on the link between the built environment and walking. Recent publications by HCDI scientists that include walking and walkability are:

Call to Action Goal 5, Strategy 5C
Evaluate community interventions to promote walking and walkability

HCDI has a long history of supporting the development and use of tools that can be used to inform decision-making around community design and evaluate interventions that support walkability.

Since 2006, HCDI has funded or provided technical assistance to almost one-third of the more than 350 HIAs completed or underway in the United States to date. Some of these HIAs have helped communities:

  • Reduce the risk of motor vehicle fatalities involving pedestrians and bicyclists. The HIAs have resulted in infrastructure changes that improved pedestrian and bicycle safety around schools, road crossings, and along a dangerous street.
  • Create new trails and entrances to an underutilized park allowing walkers and bikers easy access to the park—boosting physical activity levels.

HCDI helped the Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization use their health and transportation data to calibrate and run the Integrated Transportation and Health Impact Modeling (ITHIM) tool.

  • ITHIM results suggested that more than 70 lives and $30 million in healthcare and lost productivity costs could be saved per year with moderate increases in walking and biking for transportation.
  • Due in part to HCDI’s efforts, the Nashville MPO changed the scoring criteria by which they select projects for construction: Their most recent regional transportation plan shows 70% of projects include support for biking and walking. In the previous plan, only 2% of projects did so.

HCDI and the American Planning Association created the Healthy Community Design Checklist Toolkit that has been used to help planners, public health professionals, and the general public consider walkability and other healthy land use choices in their community planning processes.

The goal of Step it up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities is to increase walking by working together to increase access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll and to create a culture that supports walking for all Americans. The Healthy Community Design Initiative will continue to support this goal by helping communities create transportation systems that increase physical activity, reduce motor vehicle fatalities, and reduce exposure to air pollution.

About the Healthy Community Design Initiative
HCDI is the only federal program whose primary purpose is to improve the health of all Americans through evidence-based changes in the built environment. HCDI, also known as the Built Environment and Health Initiative, will continue to:

  • Work toward increasing access to safe and convenient places to walk and wheelchair roll and
  • Help people create communities that support walking for Americans of all ages and abilities.

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