News Release: January 16, 2014

Healthy Community Design Toolkit Can Help Communities Get Fit in 2014

WASHINGTON, DC — A new year often means making resolutions for changing or improving an aspect of your life. Resolutions shouldn't be limited to just individuals. Communities can, and should make a resolution to get healthy in 2014. A major contributing cause of obesity is the lack of physical activity and easy access to healthy food options. Community planners, working in conjunction with health professionals, can address health concerns through the built environment by providing more choices for how people live, work and recreate.

The American Planning Association, in partnership with the National Center for Environmental Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, created the Healthy Community Design Toolkit, a group of tools that can be used by anyone to assess and improve a community's overall health.

"The toolkit assists with two tasks — helping communities start the conversation about the connection between health and the built environment, and providing prioritized action steps to start the path to a healthier community," said Anna Ricklin, manager of APA's Planning and Community Health Resource Center. "The step-by-step directions empower communities to overcome the perceived hurdle of starting the evaluation and implementation process."

The free toolkit includes:

  • Healthy Community Design Checklist — a quick assessment tool that can help identify the health priorities of a community. This tool assists in easily identifying how to improve resident quality of life. Examples include the desire to have more opportunities to be active outside or move around the community more easily without a car.
  • Healthy Community Design PowerPoint Presentation — a ready-to-use presentation that explains the connection between community design and health. Presenters can insert their own community-specific data on chronic disease killers, traffic-related injuries and deaths, and pedestrian/bicyclist fatalities. It also offers solutions such as encouraging active transportation like walking or bicycling that can reduce collisions.
  • How-To Guide for Creating a Neighborhood Health Profile — enables neighborhoods to identify its most critical health issues such as cardiovascular disease, tobacco and alcohol use, asthma or diabetes rates. The guide suggests a number of available local and national health data resources that can be used to create a profile. Once the health issues are identified, a community can begin to prioritize its health concerns.
  • The Planning for Health Resource Guide — a single resource consolidating a variety of information about making a community more active, providing healthier and more affordable food choices, reducing car dependence to travel about the community, and improving community safety. Links to a variety of the best available resources are included from around the country and the world, including New York City's Active Design Guidelines; Wisconsin's Active Community Environments Resource Kit to Prevent Obesity and Related Chronic Diseases; and AARP's Livable Communities Guide.

"Your address can play an important role in how long you live and how healthy you are," said Captain Arthur Wendel, MD, MPH, head of CDC's Healthy Community Design Initiative in the National Center for Environmental Health. "The physical design of your neighborhood affects your health every time you step out your front door. Sometimes making healthy choices is not easy. It's hard being physically active when you don't have access to sidewalks, parks, clean air, or safe areas, and eating right is hard if healthy foods are not available."

The Healthy Community Design Checklist Toolkit is available at

About the CDC
For more information about CDC's efforts to combat obesity, please visit

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning — physical, economic, and social — so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, with almost 40,000 members worldwide in nearly 100 countries.


Roberta Rewers, APA, 312-786-6395;