Planning and Health

Urban planning is a process used to develop a broad vision for the design of a community by putting together its pieces—buildings, parks, transportation infrastructure—in a way that best serves the community.

The way we plan, design, and develop our communities impacts public health. It determines equitable access to healthy food, medical care, and good schools and jobs. It influences physical activity, social connectivity, and community resilience. Urban planning in the Built Environment Unit is focused on maximizing these and other health benefits by providing analysis and guidance, and engaging the community throughout the planning process.

Healthy Development Guide

Building Healthy in Harris County is designed to promote healthy urban planning and development by providing developers, planners, architects, public health, and other entities with a robust guide of key health considerations that highlight the potential health implications of development plans and projects. This non-regulatory guide is intended to prompt conversations and critical thinking with regard to health and development.

The guide first provides information on the relationship between health and development and describes existing conditions specific to Harris County that impact this relationship. The guide is then divided into 10 healthy development “elements” for consideration during the planning and development process. Each element includes information on why that element matters to health, where Harris County stands, where Harris County is going, and a series of guiding questions supporting overarching goals for each element as it relates to health. The questions support a shift to thinking about development holistically by integrating health, environmental, social, and economic equity into project considerations.

Community Action Planning for Health Equity in Settegast

The purpose of the Actions for Health Equity in Settegast Project was to examine the history of discriminatory land use and planning practices and policies in Settegast and their impacts on health and socioeconomic outcomes today. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) Houston District Council received funding for the project from ULI’s Building Healthy Places Initiative as part of the District Council Partnerships for Health Equity Program. ULI Houston, the Kinder Institute for Urban Research, and the Houston Land Bank served as key partners, with the Built Environment Unit serving as the project lead. Through extensive community engagement, historical research, and data collection and analysis, the project team co-created a Community Action Plan for Health Equity with tangible steps residents and partners can take to drive equitable change in Settegast.

Community Action Plan for Health Equity in Settegast

Infrastructure Resilience Team

The Infrastructure Resilience Team (IRT) was formed by Harris County Commissioners Court in 2020 as an interdisciplinary, interdepartmental, collaborative group working together to offer high value & customized solutions to flooding challenges and community resilience issues to ensure a more equitable and thriving future for all residents.

With the primary role of being the Social Vulnerability Subject Matter Expert (SME), Public Health is one of six agencies on this team, which also includes Engineering, Toll Road Authority, Flood Control District, Community Services, and Emergency Management. Working along with the Community Flood Resilience Task Force, a 17-member group with diverse representation, the IRT is developing an inclusive and equitable Flood Resilience Plan for Harris County. This plan is intended to be data-driven, nature-based, and identify specific projects and initiative as well as policy and guidance.