Planning Healthy Communities

There is a growing understanding that the health of the population is influenced, in large part, by the surrounding environment. Many common health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, and some cancers can be linked to obesity. Often, obesity is a result of a poor diet and limited physical activity. The built environment (where we live, work, and play) can be a major contributing factor to obesity and the related health issues that are associated. Since World War II, the predominant style of land development has been designed around the automobile. This suburban style of development requires a driving a car to get most places and often does not result in communities where there is an opportunity to walk or bike to take care of daily needs. Parks and recreational opportunities are often distant from homes as well.

A healthy community design incorporates a mixture of land uses, transportation options, parks, medical services, and recreational opportunities. Unfortunately, there are far more suburban developments than there are “healthy communities” nationwide and in Delaware.

In order to improve Delawareans health outcomes and improve their quality of life, it is important to “move upstream” and start addressing the quality of the environment in which we all live. To start, state agencies, local governments, and communities can change the design of communities and transportation systems. The OSPC has been working on this challenge for many years, starting in 2009 with the formation of the Delaware Coalition for Healthy Eating and Active Living. Since that time, the OSPC has collaborated with many state agencies and other partners on ways to make Delaware a healthy place to live, work, and play.

Resources for Planning Healthy Communities in Delaware

Delaware Plan4Health

  • The Delaware Chapter of the American Planning Association and the Delaware Academy of Medicine/Delaware Public Health Association have received a grant from the American Planning Association through its Plan4Health program to combat two determinants of chronic disease-lack of physical activity and lack of access to nutritious foods. The funding for this national program is implemented in partnership between the American Planning Association and the American Public Health Association (APHA). This represents a major new collaboration between planners and public health professionals. Funding for Plan4Health was provided through an award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  • The Plan4Health project in Delaware focused on Kent County. The culmination of the project were two comprehensive plan guidance documents providing detailed recommendations about how to incorporate health into comprehensive plans. Learn more about Plan4Health and download the comprehensive plan guidance documents.

University of Delaware Institute for Public Administration

  • Complete Communities promotes healthy lifestyles, economic growth, and sustainability through an integrated approach to transportation, land use, and community design. The Institute for Public Administration (IPA) at the University of Delaware has crafted an online Delaware Complete Communities Planning Toolbox. This resource is designed for community leaders and local government officials in Delaware to utilize planning approaches, community-design tools, public engagement strategies, and visual tools.