Supporting Healthy Eating and Active Living in Vermont Communities

Healthy community design means planning and designing communities to make it easier for people to live healthy lives. Researchers and community members recognize that an environment that supports active living and expands access to healthy and affordable foods is essential for good health. Healthy community design changes the physical environment, community infrastructure and local policy to create such an environment.

Vermont partners from planning, transportation, recreation and agriculture identified the following four strategies to be most relevant for Vermont’s population, rural character, and framework for local planning:

  • Concentrated Mixed Use Development
  • Bicycle and Pedestrian Friendly Communities
  • Parks and Recreation Facilities and Open Space
  • Fresh and Healthy Food
Healthy community design resource

The Vermont Healthy Community Design Resource: Active Living and Healthy Eating was created around the four strategies described above for health professionals, planners, and anyone seeking to make their community a place that supports active living and healthy eating. The information, tools and resources in this guide may be used to successfully navigate the worlds of land use planning and public health.

The Vermont Healthy Community Design Resource, Examples for Creating Healthy Communities: Physical Activity, Healthy Eating, Tobacco, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention provides examples of policies, plans, and strategies that Vermont communities have implemented to create places that support healthy lifestyles. It also includes sources to find “best practice” examples of zoning, ordinance and policy language municipalities could adopt to support healthy lifestyle choices."

3-4-50 has healthy community design success stories that can be modeled in other town and cities. 3-4-50 represents 3 behaviors - tobacco use, lack of physical activity and poor diet - that lead to 4 chronic diseases - cancer, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes and lung disease - resulting in more than 50 percent of all deaths in Vermont each year. 3-4-50 brings communities, worksites and schools together for a common goal, to make the healthy option the easy option where we live, work, learn and play.

Healthy community design and equity resources

Health is shaped by where we live, learn, work and play. Some populations in Vermont have experienced historical, systems-based discrimination and racism. As a result, they experience significant disparities in health outcomes, including higher rates of chronic disease. Community strategies to improve access to healthy food and places to be physically active must be inclusive of individuals who have disabilities, are low-income, or who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC). This means identifying the priority populations in your community and actively engaging them in all stages - planning, design and implementation - of projects. Below are some resources to assist.

American Planning Association’s (APA) Planning for Equity Policy Guide - Identifies policy recommendations for planners to advocate for policies that support equity in all aspects of planning at local, state, and federal levels. This Guide provides specific, actionable policy guidance through an equity lens on cross-cutting topics and areas of planning.

Change Lab Solutions: Planning for Healthy, Equitable Communities - Offers a Planner’s Playbook: A Community-Centered Approach to Improving Health & Equity, Infographics and other useful resources for planning and health equity.

Citizens Institute on Rural Design: Practical Ways to Foster More Inclusive Community Planning and Design - A blog post offing specific,  practical ways to engage groups in community planning, who are typically underrepresented in such efforts.

Policy Link’s Equitable Development Toolkit: Access to Healthy Food - Overview that serves as an introduction to four tools in the Equitable Development Toolkit— Grocery Store Development, Corner Stores, Farmers’ Markets, and Urban Agriculture and Community Gardens—that help low-income and communities of color increase their access to healthy, fresh, affordable food.  For more, see Policy Link’s  Equitable Food Systems Resource Guide.

Project for Public Spaces: A Playbook for Inclusive Placemaking -  A four part series that addresses inclusive community process, programming, design, and public space management.

Vermont Complete Streets

Streets should safely accommodate all transportation system users, regardless of age, ability, or their preferred mode of transportation, including walking, biking, driving, or the use of transit. Vermont took these principles and put them into policy by passing a Complete Streets law that supports the state's goal of increasing the number of Vermonters who engage in regular physical activity, by creating communities where walking and bicycling are made safe and accessible.

Complete Streets: Guide for Vermont Communities and slides were developed to assist towns with understanding the law and providing examples of how Complete Streets can be applied in Vermont communities.

Health Impact Assessment

Health Impact Assessment, or HIA is a process that helps evaluate the potential health effects of a plan, project or policy before it is built or implemented. A HIA can provide recommendations to increase positive health outcomes and minimize adverse health outcomes. HIA brings potential public health impacts and considerations to the decision-making process for plans, projects, and policies that fall outside the traditional public health arenas, such as transportation and land use.

Health Department staff have been trained and may be able to provide support to communities interested in conducting health impact assessments.
Learn more about the Health Department's HIA efforts.

More resources & partners

Aspects of the community environment such as the availability and accessibility of bicycle or walking paths, exercise facilities or farmer's markets influence a person's health behaviors such as level and amount of physical activity or consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. For these reasons the Health Department, in collaboration with the UVM Center for Rural Studies, conducted a survey of public resources related to physical activity and nutrition in Vermont's cities and towns in 2005.

Survey results are presented, and data compared from each participating town and city. The survey was redone in 2016. The results will be updated when available. See the 2005 survey results

Creating healthy communities is a team effort. Here are a few of our partners:

Cities and towns play an important role in shaping the health of Vermonters. Learn more about 3-4-50 and sign-on to show your organization’s commitment to reducing chronic disease.

sign on with 3-4-50


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