Health organizations in Columbus and Indianapolis are among 18 in the United States to receive American Planning Association grants. The groups have been awarded a total of $260,000 to support programs fighting chronic disease.

March 27, 2015

News Release

Indianapolis and Columbus, Ind. — Two Indiana groups are among 18 nationally to receive grants from the American Planning Association to combat the underlying causes of chronic disease and raise health and wellness awareness in communities.

Columbus' Reach Healthy Communities received a $125,000 grant, which it will use in conjunction with the City of Columbus and other partners to improve pedestrian access across the community. The money will fund the completion of a detailed design for intersection improvements, development of a case study for the design of safe, convenient bicycle and pedestrian crossings of state highways, and an effort to increase public awareness about the importance of a healthy built environment.

“This grant will enable us to paint the picture and complete projects related to what a 'healthy' Columbus looks like,” said Laura Garrett, Community Initiatives Lead for Reach Healthy Communities.

“Beyond safety and congestion, many of our most pressing health challenges are related in some way to our relationship with the street, including such challenges as reduced physical activity, widespread social isolation, mental illness, increased vehicle emissions and lack of transportation options,” Garrett added. “When streets are great public spaces, they inspire people to walk, bike, socialize and experience the unexpected and unforgettable Columbus, Indiana.”

Indianapolis-based Health by Design received $135,000 to develop a comprehensive pedestrian program and master plan for Indianapolis, to plan and implement a campaign to promote walking and walkability, and to conduct education for planning and public health professionals statewide.

“Most people are familiar with Indy's efforts to become more bike-friendly and to enhance transit service. This is a great step forward in a similar effort to make the city more pedestrian-friendly,” said Kim Irwin, director of Health by Design.

Assessing the physical environment and developing a plan for improvement is step one in improving overall health. In Marion County, one in three adults is overweight or obese. “The more sidewalks and safe routes we have for walking, the easier it is for residents to be physically active as part of their daily routine and to be healthier as a result,” said Irwin.

The grants are part of the American Planning Association's Plan4Health initiative, a three-year project to strengthen the connection between planning and public health. The program is implemented in partnership with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and represents a major new collaboration between planners and public health professionals. Funding for Plan4Health was provided through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bob Thompson, AICP, American Planning Association-Indiana Chapter president, said, “The projects in Indy and Columbus are wonderful opportunities to improve the health of those communities' residents. Plus, they will highlight the innovative type of collaborations among planners, public health professionals and others that are happening across the country.”

Jerry King, executive director of the Indiana Public Health Association, said, “Our association is thrilled to see public health and planning partnerships gain momentum across the country and especially in these two Indiana communities. We're eager to contribute to their outcomes and to the ability of other Hoosier communities to adopt collaborative planning for the public's health.”

Health by Design

The Health by Design coalition works to ensure that communities throughout Indiana have neighborhoods, public spaces and transportation infrastructure that promote physical activity and healthy living.

Reach Healthy Communities

The Healthy Communities Initiative began in 1994 with the goal of improving the health and quality of life of all residents of Bartholomew County. A collaborative effort from its inception, Healthy Communities has grown to reflect the entire spectrum of the community involving Columbus Regional Hospital, schools, businesses, local government, churches, and others working together to address identified health needs. Healthy Communities Initiative is proud to be a two-time national finalist for the Foster G. McGaw Prize, one of the healthcare field's most prestigious honors for excellence in community service.

American Planning Association

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning – physical, economic and social – so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more information, visit

Source: Health by Design

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