Is your neighborhood walkable? Are there sidewalks, bike paths, and pedestrian-friendly environments to support physical activity?
Do the amenities in your community—banks, grocery stores, retail shops—feel connected and in close proximity to one another? Are these amenities accessible by public transit?
The built environment consists of human-made elements where we live, work, and play, such as buildings, parks, recreational facilities, and transportation systems. People thrive, families flourish, and neighborhoods prosper when the built environment offers clean, safe, and healthy options.
PolicyLink promotes "Health in All Policies"—evaluating the health impact of any policy across an issue area—as an effective strategy to embed health equity considerations into non-health systems, such as linking health to housing, transportation, and educational systems.
The Center for Health Equity and Place works closely with the PolicyLink Center for Infrastructure Equity to create healthy, equitable communities by improving the built environment through the following strategies.
Access to Opportunity through Transportation
All neighborhoods should have adequate transportation infrastructure, allowing residents to access basic needs and opportunities that improve health outcomes. The Center promotes planning policies and practices and works to increase public investment in transportation infrastructure, making it easier to walk to schools, buy groceries, and get to health care and jobs.
For example, in 2013, The Center prioritized the creation of safe, healthy communities in California by working with a coalition to pass the Active Transportation Program, which will invest in walking and bicycling infrastructure and the Safe Routes to Schools program. The Program commits to spending at least 25 percent of the program funds on projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.
For more information, see equitycaucus.org.
Sustainable Community Strategies
The Center advocates for stronger state guidance and legal frameworks to improve health outcomes through planning practices, including helping to shape general plan guidelines for regions to promote ways in which health equity can be more prominent in general planning in California, and working to ensure that Strategic Growth Council awards are targeted to low-income communities, including disadvantaged unincorporated communities and urban neighborhoods.
The Center also works with California state agencies, including the California Office of Planning and Research and Strategic Growth Council, to recommend equitable guidance principles for local and municipal planning organizations, leverage agencies' grantmaking power to incentivize equitable development projects, and ensure that Sustainable Community Strategies—mandated by California SB 375 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by aligning transportation, land use, and housing interests—provide investment in low-income communities and communities of color and expand access to transportation, education, and economic opportunities.
For more information, see the Sustainable Communities section within the Center for Infrastructure Equity section.
Community Transformation Grant Program
PolicyLink serves as technical consultant to the Community Transformation Grant program (CTG), which is funded by the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention and Public Health Fund and administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
CTG awardees design and implement community-level programs that prevent chronic diseases and reduce health disparities. The Center for Health Equity and Place provides one-on-one and group trainings, presents at national meetings, and consults with CDC. The strategies focus on obesity prevention and include efforts such as those noted below:
- Promoting improvements in the built environment, such as sidewalks and street lighting, that increase access to physical activity and enhance safety
- Increasing access to healthy foods by supporting local farmers and developing neighborhood grocery stores
Building Healthy Communities
PolicyLink partners with community organizations in California's San Joaquin Valley in efforts to promote healthy land use and development that does not displace low-income residents or remove affordable housing. For example, the Center works with Fresno County's Community Equity Coalition to ensure that policies and practices that link transportation, environmental outcomes, and health under SB 375 result in fair investment in the county's rural communities, low-income communities, and communities of color.
The Center also provides technical assistance to The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities sites in Richmond, Fresno, and Oakland to help create safe, healthy, and environmentally and economically sustainable communities. In Oakland, best practices related to a proposed Bus Rapid Transit line along International Boulevard are being evaluated and proposed. This work includes research into current investments by local community development corporations, industries, and affordable housing near the corridor, and research into how similar projects across the country have ensured that businesses owned by women and people of color are protected throughout development.
For more information, see the California Policy Advocacy section.