Incorporating Equity in Public Health & Community Development

Two recent projects in the Denver area show how equity can be woven into land use and health activities.

Gretchen Armijo, one of the League’s Senior Fellows, recently partnered with the Metro Denver Nature Alliance to develop a Regional Equity Assessment. This assessment played a crucial role in shaping the ‘Regional Vision Plan for People and Nature’ across seven counties in Metro Denver.

Armijo’s work involved guiding a year-long stakeholder group process that engaged a wide range of participants, representing various geographies, socioeconomic and demographic groups, and self-identities, such as Black, Indigenous, Latino, Latina, LGBTQ, disabled, low-income, immigrant, Spanish-speaking, and diverse age and faith backgrounds.

Armijo and her team organized and led meetings to explore key themes and collect personal experiences related to barriers in accessing parks, nature, and green spaces. Equitable access to nature was influenced by several dimensions, including physical access, urban proximity, historical environmental justice, and a sense of belonging.

The Regional Equity Assessment emerged through a collaborative effort, drawing from a diverse group of voices. The outcomes of this assessment will guide investment and program development in parks, nature, and green spaces to ensure expanded and equitable access to nature.

Another recent project Gretchen and her team completed was for Volunteers of America to conduct a Health Action Plan for Paloma Garden, an affordable housing community for seniors in Colorado Springs, CO.

Health actions plans are a process to integrate health into housing development through partnership between affordable housing developers and public health professionals. After analyzing public health data about the existing status of health and key needs among local residents, they surveyed existing residents about what they would want and need in their living spaces, community spaces, and outdoor areas to support their health and well-being.

Gretchen and her team identified and interviewed a range of stakeholders representing healthcare, healthy food, transportation, workforce development, education, and behavioral healthcare in the local community. This process allowed them to identify key health needs and gaps and to begin the specific evidence-based design and programming strategies that can improve resident health while working with the development team to implement strategies that were actionable, feasible, and timely for the project.

There will be ongoing assessment by the onsite resident manager for the new community to assess resident health and understand how health and well-being have improved as a result of the design and programming solutions. Additionally, new partnerships were also formed between stakeholders in a plan to bring additional health services onsite for residents.

Gretchen Armijo, AICP, LEED AP, is Founder & President of Equity Policy Solutions, with 20 years of experience as an urban planner and public health professional specializing in healthy and equitable community development.

Through research, stakeholder engagement, and evidence-based best practices she works to dismantle barriers and expand access to opportunity and prosperity through community development. Her clients include municipalities, nonprofits, and developers.

Gretchen has worked on projects that have greatly impacted the equity and health and well-being of communities.

The League and our Fellows provide national expertise to support your local, equitable engagement efforts. We can provide:

  • Equity Assessments for land use, transportation, housing, climate, small area and master plans.
  • Health and Equity Action Plans for affordable housing communities that promote health and wellbeing.
  • Health Impact Assessments for proposed plans, policies, or projects to consider health impacts and recommend evidence-based mitigation strategies.
  • Policy Analysis and Development to understand the impact of current or proposed policies and recommend evidence-based policies to advance equity goals.

Read more here to see how Gretchen and our staff can provide your community with a complete array of services. Email us at [email protected] if you’re interested in working with Gretchen and the League.

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