The 5th Annual Planning for Healthy Communities Conference took place on November 2 at the Charles Mack Citizen Center in Mooresville, North Carolina. The conference featured an array of breakout and plenary sessions on topics at the intersection of planning and public health. This year’s conference attracted seventy-five participants from across North Carolina and neighboring states, representing the fields of planning, public health, parks and recreation, and local government management.
Tim Schwantes from Active Living By Design was the morning keynote speaker and gave an engaging presentation on operationalizing health equity. As demonstrated within his presentation, health equity is providing everyone with the particular resources he or she needs in order to live a healthy and productive life. For example, instead of giving everyone the same bicycle regardless of height or physical ability providing them with a specific bicycle that will meet their individual needs.
The afternoon plenary panel featured Plan4Health managers Mike Thompson from Tennessee and Katherine Hebert from North Carolina, who shared their experiences with leading a statewide effort to promote healthy community planning work and grow cross-sector collaborations. The three-year Plan4Health project of the American Planning Association has leveraged planners’ roles as collaborators and conveners to improve health outcomes across the nation. Although North Carolina and Tennessee have taken different approaches to implement Plan4Health, they have both benefited from the resources provided by and professional relationships fostered during the program.
Breakout sessions on innovative health department initiatives, the impact of transportation, housing, and economic development on health, promoting access to healthy foods, and supporting active living provided participants three chances to focus on an aspect of healthy community design. At the end of the day, Charlene Mack the Equitable Transportation Chair of the West Boulevard Neighborhood Coalition reminded participants of the importance of working with neighborhoods, community leaders, and faith-based organizations to take collective action to improve the places where we live, work, and play.
“Those who attended the conference demonstrated to us that planning for healthy communities is an important topic for their communities and one we are all dedicated to making progress towards and ultimately achieving,” said Centralina Planning Director Michelle Nance.
This year’s conference was sponsored by the American Planning Association North Carolina Chapter, the American Planning Association’s Plan4Health program, Gresham, Smith and Partners, the Local Government Federal Credit Union, and the Centralina Council of Governments.
The Centralina Health Solutions Coalition is dedicated to working with the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association to promote healthy community planning as part of the Plan4Health NC initiative. To find out more or to get involved please visit our website at http://www.centralina.org/regional-planning/healthy-communities/ or contact Katherine Hebert at firstname.lastname@example.org.