Planning is an evolving field of work with the steadfast value of prioritizing the health and wellness of communities and those who occupy them. Until recently, the fields of planning and public health worked separate from one another, despite striving for similar, and often interdependent, goals. The Plan4Health Initiative was created to draw attention to the intersection of planning and public health. Anchored by members of the American Planning Association (APA) and the American Public Health Association (APHA), Plan4Health supports creative partnerships to build sustainable, cross-sector coalitions that work with communities to increase access to healthy food and opportunities for active living where residents live, work, and play.

The San Diego Section of the American Planning Association (SDAPA) is committed to the Plan4Health Initiative and promoting healthy places under the umbrella of Planners4Health.

“People often forget that public health and planning evolved together along with the urbanization of cities, but diverged in the middle of the 20th century.” said Hugo Salgado, a Community Health Program Specialist with San Diego County’s Chronic Disease and Health Equity Unit and a member of the Planners4Health network, “Recent research has highlighted the impact planning can have on public health and demonstrated the importance of bringing the disciplines back together. We are excited to explore opportunities to partner with planning once again to create a healthier San Diego.”

Live Well San Diego is a regional vision adopted by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2010 that aligns the efforts of County government, community partners and individuals to help all San Diego County residents be healthy, safe, and thriving. The vision includes three components. Building Better Health, adopted on July 13, 2010, focuses on improving the health of residents and supporting healthy choices; Living Safely, adopted on October 9, 2012, focuses on protecting residents from crime and abuse, making neighborhoods safe, and supporting resilient communities; and, Thriving, adopted on October 21, 2014, focuses on cultivating opportunities for all people to grow, connect and enjoy the highest quality of life. Planners, organizational leaders, and community members from throughout the region are working together to identify priority needs, plan community improvements, and conduct activities to improve the health, safety, and overall well-being of residents and their communities. Planners and public health professionals from various sectors are actively involved in the development of the Live Well Action Plan and working with the County and other organizations to include Plan4Health principles into this resource document. A campaign like Live Well San Diego leverages planners’ roles as collaborators and conveners to improve positive health outcomes.

Another example of planning and public health coming together is the AARP Livable Initiative. The AARP Livable Initiative supports the efforts of neighborhoods, towns, cities and rural areas to be great places for people of all ages. The Initiative states that communities should provide safe, walkable streets; age-friendly housing and transportation options; access to needed services; and opportunities for residents of all ages to participate in community life. This Initiative has emerged in San Diego County as part of an international effort to make all cities age friendly. The City of Chula Vista became the first city in the County of San Diego to join the Livable Communities network and write a Livable Communities Age-Friendly Communities Action Plan. The City’s Action Plan summarizes their process for creating the Action Plan and provides goals for implementation over the next three years. The Action Plan was adopted by the City Council on July 10, 2018 and will be overseen by the Joint Age-Friendly Task Force (Healthy Chula Vista Advisory Commission and Commission on Aging). The City of Chula Vista carved the way for other cities in the region to think about planning as a public health matter and consider how communities function best for all ages and abilities. Current work is underway for the City of La Mesa to become the second city in the County to write such an action plan and join the Livable Communities Age-Friendly network. Having example documents from Chula Vista and La Mesa will hopefully inspire other cities in the region to join this campaign and grow our communities to be supportive, safe, and health-oriented for residents of all ages. (Transportation training for older adults)   The San Diego Foundation (City of CV receiving AFC designation)

Beyond Live Well San Diego and the AARP Livable initiative, other great projects, programs, and educational events are happening around the County that showcase Plan4Health principles and local, on-the-ground efforts. Beginning this spring, SDAPA and County HHSA will host a series of workshops focused on planning and public health to share the important interdisciplinary connections. “The Chronic Disease and Health Equity unit is working with the local American Planning Association chapter to coordinate the launch of their Planners4Health subcommittee.” Hugo shared, “Individuals from the local chapter reached out to us to support their new efforts and ensure buy-in from public health partners. The workshops will kick-off with a Planning and Public Health 101 orientation and delve deeper into topics where the two disciplines can share resources and learn from and support one another. Some of the topics will be on health equity, climate change, and local food systems.”

Two major events in San Diego are already planned that will help further bridge the gap between planners and public health practitioners. These events include the County of San Diego Live Well San Diego Summit and the 2018 APA California Conference.

The County of San Diego Live Well San Diego Data Summit is a free event and is intended for municipalities, urban planners, and other built environment stakeholders. The summit will explore new solutions for effectively measuring walkability and provide opportunities to help your community make the active mobility option the easy option through developing shared walkability measurements across municipalities. Many tools have been developed to help planners and practitioners integrate how we think about and analyze health and planning, and the upcoming workshop will provide forums and information about tools that can be utilized and future tools for which we should be looking.

The 2018 APA California Conference is October 7th to 10th, and includes multiple sessions and mobile workshops that will discuss the integration of public health into the planning process. A session specific to Plan4Health is scheduled on Monday during the conference; entitled, Regional Planning from the Public Health Lens: Moving into a Healthier, More Equitable, and More Prosperous Future, the session will share collaborative efforts underway that are leading to more equitable, sustainable, and prosperous communities.

We look forward to seeing local APA members and interested practitioners at these upcoming events. For planners and organizations interested in getting involved with SDAPA’s Planners4Health or learning more about the Initiative, please visit the SDAPA Planners4Health webpage. This webpage was put together to help planners understand the connections between planning and public health and provide links to public health and planning resources.

The Live Well San Diego Data Summit is on August 29th, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

You can register for the event and find out more information by visiting the SDAPA’s website or by visiting the registration link here. If you have any questions about the Data Summit, please contact or at 619-458-1258.

To learn more about the 2018 APA California Conference, and to sign-up for a one-day or full-day registration, please visit the conference website.


By Jana Schwartz, SITES AP, Active Transportation Planner at Circulate San Diego