Built environments can shape how active an individual is, while policy decisions made decades ago impact health disparities today. To address these critical social determinants of health, experts are calling for increased cooperation between urban planners and the public health field.
In November 2021, the US Senate passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), a $1 trillion bill aimed at rebuilding the nation’s roads, funding new climate resilience initiatives, and addressing, in part, past decisions that contribute to present-day health disparities.
“For the transportation world, I kind of feel like this is huge, because we’ve been talking about equity without really always doing equity for a long time,” said Leigh Ann Von Hagen, AICP, PP, a planning practitioner, managing director and adjunct professor with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center, and a founder of the Planning Healthy Communities Initiative at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
One facet of the IIJA includes a census tract mapping element, where planners looking to receive a Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant would highlight areas of persistent poverty and historically disadvantaged communities.