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Unformatted text preview: April 2004, Vol 94, No. 4 | American Journal of Public Health Corburn | Peer Reviewed | Reconnecting Urban Planning and Public Health | 541 RECONNECTING URBAN PLANNING AND PUBLIC HEALTH Confronting the Challenges in Reconnecting Urban Planning and Public Health | Jason Corburn, PhD, MCP Although public health and urban planning emerged with the common goal of prevent- ing urban outbreaks of infec- tious disease, there is little overlap between the fields today. The separation of the fields has contributed to un- coordinated efforts to address the health of urban popula- tions and a general failure to recognize the links between, for example, the built environ- ment and health disparities facing low-income populations and people of color. I review the historic con- nections and lack thereof be- tween urban planning and pub- lic health, highlight some challenges facing efforts to re- couple the fields, and suggest that insights from ecosocial theory and environmental jus- tice offer a preliminary frame- work for reconnecting the fields around a social justice agenda. ( Am J Public Health. 2004;94:541–546) DESPITE THE COMMON historical origins and interests of urban planning and public health, only minor overlaps between the 2 fields exist today. One result of this “disconnect” is an uncoordi- nated approach to eliminating the glaring health inequalities facing the urban poor and people of color. 1–5 While public health is in- creasingly concentrating on bio- medical factors that might con- tribute to different morbidity and mortality rates between the well off and least well off, the field is just beginning to seriously investi- gate the role of land use decisions and how the built environment influences population health. At the same time, urban planning practice shows few signs of re- turning to one of its original mis- sions of addressing the health of the least well off. 3,5 The result is that work in the 2 fields is largely disconnected, and both areas are failing to meaningfully account for the economic, social, and polit- ical factors that contribute to pub- lic health disparities. 4 However, the public health significance of the disconnect between planning and public health has not gone unnoticed. A series of recent reports have emphasized the importance of re- connecting planning and public health. For example, a 2001 In- stitute of Medicine report titled Rebuilding the Unity of Health and the Environment emphasized that the “environment” should be un- derstood as the interplay be- tween ecological (biological), physical (natural and built), social, political, aesthetic, and economic environments. 6 The National Center for Environmental Health of the Centers for Disease Con- trol and Prevention, in its 2000 report Creating a Healthy Environ- ment: The Impact of the Built Envi- ronment on Public Health , argued for the reintegration of land use planning and public health, ex- plicitly linking transportation and land use planning to public...
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