Interested in working with MDPH on a Health Impact Assessment to take place between September 2013 and August 2014? Click here to complete a brief questionnaire. See below for more information on Healthy Community Design and links to current and past HIA projects.

Where we live matters greatly to our health.

In fact, it is one of the most powerful predictors of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease; diseases that are greatly impacted by the food we eat and how active we are (IOM, 2011).

This is because where we live impacts our ability to make healthy decisions. For example, we know that people who live in walkable communities are two times as likely to get enough physical activity and that people who live in poorer neighborhoods are 50% less likely to have a recreational facility near their home (Frank et al., 2005 and Gordon-Larsen et al., 2006). In urban areas with limited food access (defined as living more than a mile away from a full-service supermarket) residents are more likely to be low-income and live in racially segregated neighborhoods. In rural areas, the lack of adequate transportation infrastructure leads to food access problems (Economic Research Service, 2009).

These issues are often referred to as the determinants of health because they relate to social and economic policy decisions that our communities have made over many years.

Healthy Community Design focuses on making our communities healthier places to live, work and play - where walking and biking are easier, and where being physically active is a natural part of your day. Healthy community design brings evidence-based health strategies into community planning, transportation, and land-use decisions (e.g. whether our homes are near schools, recreation areas, and businesses).

Two strategies being used for Health Community Design are:

These are strategies that bring health considerations into all sorts of polices and projects. These types of strategies work at the policy, systems and environmental levels, all with the goal of making the “healthy choice the easy choice” for all people.

Mass in Motion communities are embracing many of these strategies. .

To join a partner list of organizations and people conducting Health Impact Assessments or working on Healthy Community Design issues in Massachusetts, contact Ben Wood at

This information is provided by the Department of Public Health.