Memphis and Shelby County Office of Sustainability conducted an HIA as part of the Mid-South Regional Greenprint and Sustainability Plan, funded through a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant. The plan is a multifaceted, 25-year project with the goal of creating connected communities in the tri-state region where all residents will have equal access to economic, social, and natural opportunities. It includes eight strategic directions, categorizing overall goals and outcomes, along with 32 objectives and 183 actions within these strategic directions. The Greenprint HIA focused specifically on eight actions across five of the strategic directions and included a rapid HIA for a proposed town center project in the Frayser community of Memphis, Tennessee.
The HIA found that the plan is likely to affect health in three ways: building healthy communities, framing parks and trails as existing resources for health, and promoting healthy travel behaviors. The HIA recommended improving existing parks and trails to maximize potential short-term health benefits, particularly in communities with a higher risk for negative health outcomes; creating an interconnected network of trails to promote active transportation; educating users and drivers about safety to mitigate potential increases in injury risk due to higher trail usage; and providing information about primary destinations, such as residential and commercial areas, that are accessible via the trail network to promote usage. And the HIA recommended public involvement throughout implementation of the plan to ensure that communities’ voices are heard and that equity remains a focus.
The rapid HIA of the Frayser town center project focused on the potential health implications of social equity, injury risk, physical activity, and social connectedness. It found that each potential site could benefit health and made recommendations to mitigate possible negative effects. The HIA recommended further research to understand the effects of noise and air pollution, traffic congestion, and other potential adverse health outcomes related to construction. It also recommended that the Memphis City Council establish policies and programs that prevent displacement in areas surrounding the town center site during construction; measures that calm traffic; land use regulations that prioritize the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users; infill construction strategies to ensure that community members using active transportation modes can access desirable destinations; and developing infrastructure that supports active transportation.
The HIA recommended the creation of a public information plan for Greenprint. It also urged those guiding the plan to include measures to improve the safety of parks and develop a better understanding of the people living near redevelopment sites to highlight the potential health impacts. As one piece of a much larger regional plan, the HIA influenced the Office of Sustainability’s prioritization of recommendations and strategies within that plan. In addition, it helped identify the emerging regional green infrastructure strategies that were likely to have the biggest impact on health and health equity throughout the region, such as off-road bike and pedestrian infrastructure. The HIA also fostered collaboration between the Public Health Department and the Office of Sustainability, a local hospital, and the Georgia Health Policy Center. Together, these groups submitted an application for additional funding for an HIA program fund, which was ultimately not funded.