Health Impacts of Proposed West Side Development Highlighted in New Report

The health impacts of park, trail and green space planning in the west side of Greenville are better understood as a result of a comprehensive community process led by the South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health (IMPH). The resulting report, released today, represents a year-long assessment process that involved city officials, urban planners, community members and other stakeholders.

The findings from the assessment, a community process known formally as a health impact assessment, are contained in the report entitled “A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of Park, Trail, and Green Space Planning in the West Side of Greenville, South Carolina.”   An HIA combines scientific data, professional expertise and stakeholder involvement to determine the effects that a potential policy, plan, program or project might have on the health of a population.

Maya Pack, IMPH’s associate director of research and strategic initiatives, states “the application of HIA served as a valuable tool for advancing the conversation around community health and the built environment.  As a result, health, which is often overlooked in community development, became a front-burner issue.”

As a part of the HIA process, IMPH worked with an advisory committee which included elected officials, City of Greenville staff, national and local non-profit and advocacy organizations, public health representatives, health care providers and west side community members.  This committee prioritized impacts on physical activity, social cohesion and capital, community and family economic stability and access to healthy, affordable food. A second set of priorities included individual and community safety and air and water quality.  Recommendations made by the advisory committee indicate that the community’s residents should inform the design of the potential park, trails and green space through a public input process designed by the City.

The HIA process provided the opportunity for the City to work with IMPH in coordination with Connections for Sustainability, a project funded by grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Transportation that is allowing the City to focus planning efforts on the west side, including the ongoing City Park Plan.

According to Wayne Leftwich, community planner for the City of Greenville, “the HIA highlights the health advantages that the potential park could have on the community, and stresses the importance of involving the community in the planning process.”

The advisory committee concluded that the park has the potential to increase physical activity, leading to an improvement in an individual’s mental and physical well-being and addressing the high obesity and chronic disease rates in the community.  They also suggest that the proposed park would increase social cohesion among residents by providing a venue for residents to gather.  The HIA demonstrates the potential for changes in community and family economic stability and an opportunity to increase access to healthy food (for example, by including a community garden and/or farmer’s market in the park).

“HIA is truly a cutting edge model for inclusive community dialogue,” said Dr. Kinneil Coltman, a member of the advisory committee and director of diversity and language services at Greenville Health System.  “By empowering communities to come together to look at big planning decisions through the lens of public health, the HIA helps communities like Greenville align our community designs and public policy with our aspirations to build a healthier community for everyone,”

Work on the Greenville HIA began in March of 2012 when IMPH was awarded one of two national demonstration grants by the National Network of Public Health Institutes.  This grant was provided with support from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts.  IMPH is experienced as a neutral convener and has expertise in the HIA process and its components, including primary and secondary research and data translation. The West Side HIA is the second HIA to be performed in South Carolina.  IMPH also facilitated the first, which examined the health impacts of a proposed road re-design in Spartanburg.

Specific ideas for implementing strategies to support community health can be found in the executive summary of the HIA report as well as the full report.

Download the full report: “A Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of Park, Trail, and Green Space Planning in the West Side of Greenville, South Carolina

Download the Executive Summary.

For more information on this process or to obtain a printed copy of the report, please contact Maya Pack.

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© 2015 South Carolina Institute of Medicine and Public Health