assessment tools, children's health, land use planning, smart growth



  1. Nelson, Kevin M. MA, AICP


Recently, the rapid growth in rates of diabetes, obesity, and hypertension has become significant headline news. Most of the discussion about reversing these trends has focused on promoting more exercise and healthier diets. Although encouraging, this is not the entire solution. Communities must realize the health impacts of a built environment where mixing land uses is illegal, homes and schools are located far from one another, and an automobile is necessary to get anywhere. This pattern of development significantly affects environmental quality and human health, especially for kids who must be driven everywhere. Including smart growth principles in local and regional land use decisions could help create communities that offer more opportunities for active living. This article explores student-led projects that developed new tools to assess the impacts of the built environment, and evaluates how effective these tools are in spurring collaboration among students, urban planners, and public healthcare practitioners. Specifically, this article provides researchers and practitioners in the public health field with information about student-based health assessment tools and their application. With this knowledge, researchers and practitioners would be better equipped to identify and capitalize on opportunities for smart growth and collaboration among public health advocates. The result would be healthier communities, a more informed populace, and the realization that how we plan our communities has a profound impact on how we manage our public health.