Town of Davidson
On Thursday, June 28th and Friday, June 29th, the Town of Davidson hosted planning and public health experts from Wilmington and New Hanover County, North Carolina. Seven representatives from the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (WMPO), University of North Carolina Wilmington, and the New Hanover County Health Department attended a one-on-one health impact assessment (HIA) training given by Katherine Hebert, Davidson Design for Life (DD4L) Project Coordinator.
Mike Kozlosky, Executive Director of WMPO, requested the training in order to incorporate an HIA into the comprehensive greenway planning process for Wilmington and New Hanover County.
This is the third HIA training conducted by DD4L. The first training was held at Davidson College on April 12th for approximately 35 public health and planning professionals, students at Davidson College and UNC Charlotte, and interested community members. The second training, held on May 8th, was part of a mobile tour for the Urban Land Institute and trained 25 real estate development professionals from around the nation in the practice of HIA.
In September 2011, the Town of Davidson received a grant for over $116,000 each year renewable for up to 3 years from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention: Healthy Community Design Initiative to conduct three health impact assessments (HIA) and to train others in conducting HIAs. Davidson Design for Life (DD4L) is an initiative the Town of Davidson created as a result of this grant to foster healthy community design through the use of health impact assessments (HIA), public participation, and collaborative efforts in Davidson, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg region, and North Carolina.
The mission of DD4L is “to help Davidson be a community that is healthy today and even healthier tomorrow while serving as a model for other small towns by implementing healthy design.”
Although DD4L is required to have only two trainings each year of the grant, Ms. Hebert jumped at the opportunity to provide technical assistance and training these past few days to help build capacity for performing HIAs in North Carolina. “So far, HIA efforts have taken place in Haywood County, Davidson, Aberdeen, and Raleigh. It will be nice to add some coastal examples to North Carolina’s HIA portfolio. Building capacity and a network of HIA professionals in the state and the southeast region, where there is a high level of chronic disease that can be addressed through healthy community design, is a great passion of mine and I am grateful to be a part of it,” she said.
A health impact assessment is a process that uses multiple data sources, methods, and community engagement to estimate the potential health impacts of a decision being made. HIAs look at both positive and negative health impacts and provide recommendations and information to decision makers so that they can make informed decisions that consider health implications. HIAs can be applied to policy decisions, programs, plans, and specific projects. This year DD4L is conducting three HIAs: 1) Senate Bill 731 which would limit a municipality’s authority to regulate certain design standards in low density residential neighborhoods; 2) Davidson’s Street Design Standards which are scheduled to be updated in 2013 and determine how new streets within the town are built; and 3) Red Line Regional Commuter Rail project which, if approved, would offer a heavy-rail commuting option between Mooresville and Charlotte.
The group spent time in work sessions studying what the DD4L group has done in recent months, and received training in the development of HIAs. “We recognize that the health of our community is key. We see the importance of the development of a health impact assessment and will incorporate this new knowledge into our comprehensive greenway plan,” said Kozlosky. “Healthy living is one of our guiding principles.”
“I am very happy that the Wilmington team was able to come to Davidson for the training. I believe the training was very productive and that they are on their way to a great HIA. I also think the planners in particular got a lot out of the tour around town by way of ideas for transportation design, historic main street preservation, and affordable housing opportunities,” said Hebert.
Katherine Hebert, 29, started working for the town in December 2011 as the Davidson Design for Life Project Coordinator. She is a published author and national presenter on the topics of health impact assessments, planning, and healthy community design. Prior to joining the Town, she completed a year and a half long fellowship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Miss Hebert has a Masters in City and Regional Planning from UNC Chapel Hill and a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies: Environmental Policy and Planning from Appalachian State University.