“Does healthy planning equal more equity? Yes, if policies are written with an explicit equity focus.”

Crockett Street

Crockett Street in Fort Worth, Texas, before healthy planning initiatives. Photo by Fortworthtexas.gov

The words of Beth Altshuler of urban planning firm Raimi and Associates pay homage to the Community Transformation Grant program, or CTGs, a series of community-based grants implemented to improve the health of more than four of 10 U.S. citizens. In a webinar hosted July 18 by APHA, Altshuler and leaders of CTG initiatives in Seattle and Fort Worth, Texas, discussed major advancements toward reducing health disparities and improving overall community health.

The U.S. is 16 years behind the top-10 nations in life expectancy, while the numbers fluctuate dramatically from low- to high-income areas of King County, Wash., according to David Goldberg, senior planner at the Seattle Department of Planning and Development.

In an effort to begin bridging the gap, the department asked county residents where they shop, gather and recreate to plan ways to improve food access, physical activity and community stability. Among the decisions made after neighborhood planning, Seattle released its Food Action Plan in October to strengthen the local economy, prevent food waste and provide healthy food for its entire population over the next three to five years.

Crockett Street 2

Crockett Street in Fort Worth, Texas, after healthy planning initiatives. Photo by Fortworthtexas.gov

Through a recent neighborhood plan, the city of Fort Worth assigned separate task forces to improve education, public transit, employment, urban development, health and wellness, arts and homelessness rates. Its plan has defined goals, such as a 50 percent increase in city bikeways by 2016 and a restaurant health inspection passing rate of 95 percent.

Before and after pictures of Crockett Street in Fort Worth show the impact of the city’s neighborhood planning: dormant only five years ago, the street is now booming with thriving businesses and busy sidewalks.

“The keys to community success are vision, consensus, leadership, partnerships and, most importantly, action,” said Eric Fladager, planning manager for Fort Worth. “You can’t let plans sit on the shelf. You’ve got to get them in action.”