The Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) conducted an HIA of a proposed greenway trail along a 2-mile corridor in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood. It considered how the trail would affect community safety, access to and use of green space and parks, traffic-related air pollution, brownfields and vacant lots, and economic and workforce development, which in turn are related to stress, obesity, and chronic diseases such as diabetes.
The HIA found that the trail could both improve and harm community safety, depending on how potential concerns were addressed. If residents felt safe on the trail and in surrounding areas, they would be more likely to use it for exercise. If safety concerns were not addressed through its design or otherwise, they might not use certain parts of the trail or avoid it at certain times. The HIA recommended that the Chicago Department of Planning and Development (DPD), which will lead the design and construction of the trail, engage community organizations and residents along the proposed route to ensure that its look and feel and facilities promote community ownership. Once the trail is operational, DPD and other city departments can continue to partner with the community on maintenance and safety programs. The HIA predicted that trail users’ health could be harmed by air pollution from heavy traffic on nearby roads. However, this would probably be outweighed by the benefits of increased physical activity afforded by the trail. The assessment recommended that trees and other vegetation be planted to serve as buffer zones and to help improve air quality, and that air pollution alerts be distributed when air quality is unhealthy for sensitive groups that may use the trail. The HIA also recommended environmental testing and remediation for brownfield sites adjacent to it.
IPHI also supports CDPH’s efforts to build the capacity to conduct these assessments as part of Health in All Policies under Healthy Chicago 2.0, a four-year plan to improve health equity in the city. The department will continue to explore opportunities to integrate the HIAs into its staff positions and internal agency structure.
Support for this project was provided in part by a grant from the de Beaumont Foundation.