The Riverside County Healthy Communities Element

Aug. 20, 2012, 9:13 p.m.

The California Planning Roundtable (CPR) continues to expand the number and type of models for the Reinventing the General Plan Incubator. One of the models currently being compiled is the Riverside County’s Healthy Communities Element which was created in response to increasingly high levels of chronic diseases such as obesity and low-ranking physical environment conducive to health.

In 2011, the American Planning Association released the results of the Planning and Community Health Research Center Survey.  According to this survey, about 1/3 of cities and counties have incorporated explicit goals, objectives, or policies related to public health in their comprehensive/general plans.  The study shows that local health departments were not involved or had little involvement in the development of the public health components for the comprehensive plans.  Riverside County is one jurisdiction working to reverse this trend.

The Riverside County Healthy Communities Element (RCHCE) is the first optional General Plan Element incorporated into a County’s Master Plan in the State of California.  This effort emerged from the Public Health Department leadership’s curiosity and realization that key aspects of creating healthy (or unhealthy) communities takes place at the Planning Department.

Unanimously adopted by the County’s Board of Supervisors in October of 2011, the RCHCE represents the culmination of over 8 years of skilful strategic planning, capacity building and collaboration with different stakeholders in partnership with the Planning Department.

The RCHCE is the visionary living document advancing one of the core principles of the planning practice “to protect public health and safety.”  It contains indicators and policies traditionally not found in General Plan Elements, such as social capital, access to healthy foods and nutrition, health care and mental health, schools, recreational centers, and day care centers.  The model in the Reinventing the General Plan Incubator will highlight two of the most innovative aspects of the RCHCE:

  1. CHANGING THE NARRATIVE: Acting as a catalyst for the Department of Public Health's role as a major driver for planning and community development, and
  2. ENGINE FOR COLLABORATION: Serving as a tool to convene non-traditional partners for collaboration.

Leading the preparation of this model is one of CPR’s newest members, Miguel A. Vazquez, AICP, who currently works as the Healthy Communities Planner for the Riverside County Department of Public Health.  This model is expected to be completed and published by this coming fall/winter 2012.  Stay tuned!

blog comments powered by Disqus