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HIA Stories from the Field

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 Health Impact Assessment (HIA) found that redevelopment would have positive impacts on:

  • Physical activity levels
  • Healthy food access
  • Healthy eating
  • Neighborhood safety
  • Social interaction
  • Social cohesion

Boston’s Oasis for Healthy Play and Learning

Finding Potential in Unlikely Places

When the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC) looked at a series of vacant lots at 100 Ballou Avenue in their community, they saw the potential for a neighborhood oasis. CSNDC in Boston was founded by residents seeking to make their neighborhood more safe, sustainable, and affordable. The area around these lots—located in Boston’s Dorchester Codman Square neighborhood—houses people that are more likely to experience health inequities, including young children and people of color.

The project— “O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou,” which stands for opportunity, affirmation, sustainability, innovation, and success—includes three parts: a “tot lot” playground for young children, gardens where neighborhood residents can learn to grow fruits and vegetables to sell in the area, and a kitchen where residents can practice and share their cooking skills using produce from the O.A.S.I.S. gardens. CSNDC and Health Resources in Action (HRiA) conducted a Health Impact Assessment (HIA), found here [PDF – 2.69 MB], on the potential health impacts of the proposed development project. Overall, the HIA found that O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou would have significant positive impacts on the health of local residents if designed according to the recommendations and resources presented in the report.



The Ballou Avenue site was given to CSNDC and Friends of the Ballou—a group of neighborhood residents—by the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development. The HIA provided strong rationale for why the O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou project should move forward and for why CSNDC should have ownership. CSNDC immediately started building green spaces on the site to grow organic, healthy food for the neighborhood.


When finished, the O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou site will offer a playground for children from 14 local daycare centers, a kitchen for residents of all ages to learn about healthy food choices, and a workspace for youth and formerly incarcerated men. The project is also intended to be part of a healthy food hub, which CSNDC is creating in the area.


The O.A.S.I.S. redevelopment is expected to have positive impacts on physical activity, healthy food access and healthy eating, neighborhood safety, social interaction, and social cohesion.


Source: O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou: Health Impact Assessment Report [PDF – 2.69 MB], page 26.

six children sitting on a climbing frame

Responding to Community Needs

The O.A.S.I.S. on Ballou HIA stands out for its remarkable level of community participation. To ensure that their redevelopment plan would maximize benefits to residents of the surrounding neighborhood, CSNDC partnered with HRiA, a public health non-profit with an office down the street from the Ballou lots. In addition, Friends of the Ballou provided input throughout the HIA process. With the help of HRiA and AmeriCorps volunteers, Friends of the Ballou conducted a door-to-door neighborhood survey on the O.A.S.I.S. project.

This HIA created a foundation for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to work with community development corporations. Ben Wood, the Healthy Community Design Coordinator at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, says, “Community health is – and should be – a paramount concern to anyone who has a stake in a community. Anyone not doing HIAs is missing out on a tremendous opportunity to do well by people.”

The Health Impact Assessment was funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Healthy Community Design Initiative’s cooperative agreement “Health Impact Assessment to Foster Healthy Community Design.”

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