What we do
MAPC's Public Health Department integrates public health perspectives into our planning, project, and policy work using a Health in All Policies (HiAP) approach.
Our team helps ensure that residents throughout our region have access to open space and healthy food, that they utilize modes of transportation that encourage healthy lifestyles, live in violence-free communities with safe and clean housing, have equal access to health care services, and have limited exposure to environmental contaminants and pollution.
The public health work at MAPC is guided by our regional plan, MetroFuture, recognizing the growing importance of linking health and planning.
MAPC works with cities and towns to plan and implement improvements related to transportation, economic development, housing, energy, and the environment. There is a strong linkage between these issues and health outcomes, and MAPC works closely with our partners to bring a HiAP approach that encourages healthy community design, integrates healthy housing and transportation principles and practices, and aims to reduce environmental health exposures.
Healthy Community Design
The places where people live, work, play, gather, and move have a significant impact on their health. Healthy Community Design seeks to make healthy lifestyles accessible to all residents by infusing design, planning, and development (e.g., master plans, zoning codes, open space plans, green building, etc.) with health perspectives (e.g., active transportation, violence and injury prevention, healthy food access, water quality, equity, etc.).
MAPC’s Healthy Community Design has included work on Complete Streets, transportation corridor planning, and planning for Vision Zero in cities and towns, and heavily influences our other services like Health Impact Assessments.
If you are a Regional Planning Agency and would like more information about Healthy Community Design, please visit our Community of Practice Website.
Health Impact Assessments
A Health Impact Assessment, or HIA, is a tool for maximizing the positive health effects and mitigating the negative effects of a proposed project, plan, or policy. An HIA can highlight health disparities, raise awareness among decision makers and the public of potential health impacts, and provide recommendations. Learn more about MAPC's Health Impact Assessments.
The quality, provision, cost, and location of housing affects the choices available to residents, such as where they can shop for food and whether than can use a car, a bus, or a bicycle for daily trips, and whether their housing is free from indoor and outdoor environmental contaminants. These choices have implications for community’s health (e.g., the percentage of residents who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, etc.) and consequences on whether residents can travel safely, free of injury and the fear of crime.
MAPC’s Healthy Housing work focuses on creating residential environments and neighborhoods that integrate healthy design elements in order to support healthy behaviors and reduce poor health outcomes in the community. Work to date includes proving guidance on the development of municipal Housing Production Plans and advancing Smoke-Free Housing initiatives in multi-family housing.
Healthy Food Access
This work involve working with restaurants, corner stores, farmers markets and other retail locations in cities and towns to increase access to affordable, healthy foods for residents. Through this work, we also support MAPC's work with the state and regional partners to develop a statewide Food Systems Plan
- Municipal Strategies to Increase Food Access: presents a range of approaches municipal staff and board members, Mass in Motion Coordinators, and community food advocates can utilize to improve food access in their towns and cities. MAPC produced this resource in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, the Massachusetts Association of Health Boards, and the Massachusetts Municipal Association. Report and Appendices
- Massachusetts Food Access Mapping: Staff from MAPC’s Public Health and Data Services departments partnered with students from Tufts University this spring to analyze access to healthy food across Massachusetts. Presentation
- Understanding Community Health Needs Assessments in the Metro Boston region: MAPC is connecting with and learning from health care, public health, commuity based organizations, and other organizational partners about how to maximize efforts and outcomes from Community Health Needs Assessment in the Metro Boston region.
- SNAP and WIC program at Farmers Markets: The goal of the project is to increase access to affordable and healthy foods through farmers markets, primarily for SNAP and WIC clients.
- Photovoice projects: These projects are used to involve youth in addressing the causes and effects of unsafe environments, while promoting emotional wellbeing and healthy behaviors. More recently, we have connected our Photovoice work with MAPC’s Placemaking initiative in order to create changes in the built environment.
- Hubway bike share: Hubway is designed to provide a convenient form of active public transportation by providing access to bicycles for short trips and improving connections to transit. Our projects have looked at reducing economic and cultural barriers to bikeshare use as a way to increase equity in the region.
- Opening aqueduct trails for public use: MAPC staff has provided technical assistance to the MWRA and communities along the aqueduct trails to help develop the planning and design changes necessary for making these trails available for public use.
- Mystic River walking routes: MAPC has been working with Boston, Chelsea, Everett, Malden, Medford and Somerville to identify potential walking routes that would connect neighborhoods with the lower Mystic River and its tributaries.
- Our Healthy Mass: Our Healthy Mass website was created to provide information to Massachusetts residents on the health of their communities. The website charts the progress of the Community Transformation Grant and Mass in Motion program to help create a healthier Massachusetts.
- Community Investment Tax Health Impact Assessment Credit: MAPC and others conducted a health impact assessment to inform the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development as it developed a new funding opportunity for community development corporations: the Community Investment Tax Credit Grant Program.
- School Building Health Impact Assessment: MAPC is conducting a health impact assessment of the Plymouth South High School redevelopment proposal in order to examine the connections between school building in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and impacts on health.
- Healthy Neighborhoods Equity Fund Building Health Impact Assessment: This project is a $30 million private equity fund model that would consider the community, environmental, and health benefits of a proposed project as well as the financial risks and returns.
The Public Health Division of MAPC is always looking for new ideas, initiatives, and partnerships. Right now we are seeking communities interested in municipal Health in All Policies work, School Building and Health, and Healthy Food Access. If you are interested in these focus areas or have ideas to suggest, please contact the Public Health Manager, Barry Keppard.