But Is It Healthy? (Part 2) – Healthy Development Measurement Tool

San Francisco

San Francisco

This post is a follow up to: But Is It Healthy? (Part 1) – Health Impact Assessment and NEPA

San Francisco is leading the way in combining planning and health forces, to spatially measure environmental, social and health impacts.  Their Department of Health, and Department of Planning, among others, created the Eastern Neighborhoods Health Impact Assessment (HIA), which provided quantitative indicators that could be used to measure health impacts – the Health Development Measurement Tool.

What is the Health Development Measurement Tool (HDMT)?

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) launched the first HDMT in March of 2007, and they define it as a comprehensive evaluation metric to consider health needs in urban development plans and projects.  This online metric includes provides detailed instructions, health indicators, and strategies, organized in a convenient checklist.

How does the HDMT work?

The tool is divided into six elements:

  • Environmental Stewardship
  • Sustainable and Safe Transportation
  • Public Infrastructure
  • Social Cohesion
  • Adequate and Healthy Housing
  • Healthy Economy

Within each element, there are four Community Health Objectives:

  • Community Health Indicators – Data and maps of baseline conditions
  • “Healthy Development” Targets – Criteria used to assess whether plans and projects achieve community health objectives.
  • Policies and Design Strategies – Potential actions of project sponsors or policy makers to achieve community health objectives.
  • Health-based Rationales – Research that describes the connection between community health objectives and physical and mental health.

All sections are organized in a user-friendly checklist.

Why should I care?

The tool may be on its way to your area. Planning departments all over the country are adopting the tool, including Galveston after Hurricane Ike struck the Texas Gulf Coast, (more info here) and Denver, Colorado, for their historic Lincoln Park neighborhood.

The tool provides a screening device to prevent future problems and debates during environmental assessments.  The definitive checklists provided by SFDPH provides an extensive way to cover most, if not all, ways in which a project will impact human life.

How do I get started?

The SFDPH sponsored website www.thehdmt.org is an excellent source, providing background, uses and benefits; also step-by-step instructions, worksheets, checklists, flowcharts.  Also, the SFDPH is offering education, advise, and help to those who are interested in implementing the HDMT.

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