Regulatory Assessment for Healthy Community Design

farmers market
Union Point Farmers' Market (2017)
Find the Town's Healthy Community Design Assessment here.

Where we live matters greatly to our health. In fact, it is one of the most powerful predictors of diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease; diseases that are affected by what we eat and how much we move. 

According to Active Living Research and the National Farmers Market Coalition:

  • People who live in areas with sidewalks are 47% more likely to be active for 30 minutes a day. [1]
  • The number of children who are active outdoors is 84% higher when school yards are kept open. [2]
  • People who live near trails are 50% more likely to meet physical activity guidelines. [3]
  • Public transit users take 30% more steps per day than people who rely on cars. [4]
  • Older adults engage in 3.5 times more physical activity in parks with walking loops. [5]
  • Proximity to farmers markets is associated with lower BMI, while density of fast-food and pizza venues is associated with higher BMI. [6]

In 2015, the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD) secured a technical assistance grant from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) to conduct a comprehensive review of the Town’s planning documents and zoning ordinance. The purpose of this review was to advance the Town's policy and regulatory work as a Mass in Motion community and to develop an action-oriented plan for using policies, systems, and environments to increase people's access to healthy food and opportunities for physical activity.  

The Town's regulatory assessment was completed by the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) in June 2015. Findings from this report were presented to the Planning Board that same month. The report identifies areas of success in the Town's Mass in Motion work, areas of opportunity where improvements to existing policies and regulations can be made, and prioritized next steps to better facilitate access to healthy food and physical activity in the community. 

Elements of Healthy Community Design

Healthy communities are characterized by a wide range of policies, systems, and environments that make it easier for people to make healthy choices. In general, healthy communities do the following:

  • Encourage mixed land use and greater land density.
  • Build streets for people of all ages and abilities and all modes of travel.
  • Create outlets for healthy food, such as community gardens and a local farmers market.
  • Encourage diverse housing choices for households of all incomes.
  • Create community centers and outdoor meet-up spaces where people can gather and mingle.
  • Increase access to parks, playgrounds, and other public spaces for recreation.

Related Documents/Links