Plan4Health Success Story: Communicating for Health in Florida

Plan4Health connects communities across the country, funding work at the intersection of planning and public health. Anchored by American Planning Association (APA) chapters and American Public Health Association (APHA) affiliates, Plan4Health supports creative partnerships to build sustainable, cross-sector coalitions.


The Florida Chapter of APA was greatly excited to receive the Planners4Health grant from APA. We began planning early in anticipation of the receipt of the grant and were ready by the February 1, 2017, start date. In fact, we had our first meeting of our task force the next day!

In order to do this, we began recruiting each of our six task force members in late 2016 and into January 2017, and had each member dedicated to bringing their “thinking caps” to the facilitated meeting.

Task force members kick off Planners4Health in Florida. Photo by Allara Mills Gutcher.

The task force included a diverse cross-section of professionals from rural and urban areas of the state. We hired a facilitator to help us discover what our project was going to be.

Because Florida had not received Plan4Health funds before, we were new to the project and did not have momentum to build on. Our facilitator walked us through several exercises to brainstorm: What must we do? What should we do? What should we not do? What is success?

Task Force Members

Kim Ogren, Environmental Planner and Nonprofit Consultant (statewide)

Karen Hamilton, Planner, South Florida Regional Planning Council (Miami)

Greg Stuart, Executive Director, Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (Ft. Lauderdale)

Laura Cantwell, Associate State Director of Advocacy and Outreach, AARP (Tampa)

Dr. Nick Comerford, Director, University of Florida Northern Research and Education Center (Quincy)

Emily Suter, Health Planning Director, Health Planning Council of Northeastern Florida (Jacksonville)

Project Manager

Allara Mills Gutcher, Land Use Planning Consultant (Panama City)

In our day-long meeting, we developed a list of goals and decided our project outcome: we would design a web-based platform to showcase the intersection of planning and public health. Because we knew we had two firm guiding principles — developing something easily disseminated and developing something sustainable — our decision to develop a website was a perfect fit.

At this meeting we also decided to develop and publish a survey to distribute to APA and state health officials so we could understand our target audience. We received 220 responses from land-use planners from across Florida:

  • 130 respondents worked for a local government
  • 104 worked in an urban area
  • 104 worked in a suburban area
  • 12 were rural

Thirty percent of the respondants interacted with public health officials in their line of work — and 71 percent reported there was political interest in regulating or guiding growth toward healthier environments in their community. However, 84 percent of respondants either did not know, or stated their organization did not require, health-related planning in adopted policy.

With these results, we began planning a second meeting with greater participation to discover the best ways to market the website and to request assistance in content development. This roundtable event was held in Gainesville, and included several health officials from Hillsborough, Sarasota, Putnam, Clay and Dixie/Levy Counties as well as planners from Alachua County, Winter Haven, Lakeland and Forward Pinellas, plus representatives from the University of Florida and Florida State University.

“The project endeavors to design and implement an approach, a resource, and possibly technical assistance to planners around the state to grow the number of planners working on health-related projects. The existing tools and resources available are necessary but insufficient.
Kim Ogren, Planners4Health Task Force Member

This meeting was also guided by an external facilitator to help us discover where and how we needed to move the project along. Both large and small group discussions were centered on outreach, how to market the website, and what content to include that would be of value to the audience of planners and health officials.

Participants were segmented into smaller working groups toward the end of the day to create mock-ups of web pages. The mock-ups were then presented to the large group for building consensus on how to move forward. The meeting results were shared with the website designer, who has since built a framework for the content.

The result of our work: Plan4HealthyFL.org. We recognize that this information source will be fluid and plan to maintain content via the chapter office. Please keep checking in to plan4healthyfl.org for the latest resources.

Top image: Urban art space in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami, a 2015 Great Neighborhood in America. Photo courtesy City of Miami.


About the Author
Allara Mills Gutcher is managing principal at The Planning Collaborative and the project manager for Planners4Health Florida.

April 5, 2018

By Allara Gutcher, AICP