Plan4Health Program

Emergency Preparedness and Recovery

A Toolkit for Rural Communities

On April 29, 2017, seven tornadoes ripped through Van Zandt County in Northeast Texas, leaving in its wake over nine million dollars in private property damage, and four fatalities.  Two of the seven tornadoes were found to have caused the most damage, and were rated an EF-3 and EF-4. The areas that were affected the most were immediately to the East and immediately to the West of the city of Canton, Texas.

The Planners4Health project focused on disaster recovery from a Social Determinants of Health perspective, specifically targeting small and/or rural communities. The Planners4Health team performed an evaluation summary of disaster planning from a planning and public health perspective; prepared a disaster preparedness and recovery toolkit, designed specifically for rural areas; and conducted a stakeholders’ round table event at the conclusion of the project to disseminate the toolkit.

Additionally, because the team adopted a Social Determinants of Health lens through which they viewed this project, this paradigm allowed the team to look beyond the disaster itself and focus on recovery and rebuilding a stronger, healthier community.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention realize that getting public health professionals and planners to talk and work together is important for building healthy communities. The CDCP is initiating a unique program to bring together the planning and public health professions, to work in partnerships, building coalitions within our communities. Planning for Heathy Communities grants are being awarded to APA Chapters by the CDCP and APA. The APA Texas Chapter is partnering with the Texas Public Health Association (TPHA). The grant award was jointly announced by APA Texas Chapter President Wendy Shabay, AICP, and TPHA President-Elect Dr. Melissa Stanford Oden, DHEd, LMSW-IPR, MPH, CHES, at the TPHA State Conference in Austin on Monday. The $110,000 grant project will be performed by the City of Austin ¡Vámonos Rundberg!” Coalition, and administered by the APA Texas Chapter.

Named “¡Vámonos Rundberg!”, the two‐fold goal of the Austin coalition is to first, increase rates of physical activity by implementing a community‐wide encouragement program to reduce drive‐alone trips and increase biking, walking, and public transit use to access work sites, schools, recreation, shopping and medical facilities. Secondly, the initiative will seek to increase access to healthy eating by conducting neighborhood engagement and outreach to improve the local sustainable food system.

This initiative will be implemented through the collaborative efforts of City of Austin departments including Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, Planning and Development Review, Parks and Recreation, Office of Sustainability, and Transportation. The city’s public transit provider, Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Capital Metro), will also serve a significant role. This team will serve as the core to capacity building across the City of Austin, partnering with the APA Texas Chapter and TPHA. The Austin ¡Vámonos Rundberg!” project is one of 19 awarded a CDC grant, out of 90 proposals received nationwide.

Plan4Health Tarrant County

In Cohort Two of the Plan4Health program, a second project is receiving funding through the APA Texas Chapter.  Building on the work of existing city plans and assessments, Plan4Health Tarrant Countyaims to improve access to local, fresh food in southeast Fort Worth by partnering with corner stores to strengthen healthy retail policies, and by helping to launch produce pushcarts and a mobile market to serve the community. The Coalition will integrate public health professionals into the planning process in an effort to address health equity issues through the process. The $135,000 grant project is being performed by the Healthy Tarrant County Coalition, and administered by the APA Texas Chapter.  Plan4Health is supported through the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention

(CDC) as part of the National Dissemination and Implementation program within the Division of Community Health, Funding Opportunity Announcement #DP14-1418.

The target areas within Tarrant County, Texas have a combined population of more than 100,000. Residents in southeast Fort Worth are predominantly African American and Latino/Hispanics, with these two demographics comprising 78 percent and 18 percent of the population, respectively. Residents tend to have lower incomes levels and lower education levels compared to the county as a whole. Chronic disease rates are higher compared to the rest of the county as well. Recent data revealed higher rates of asthma (9.4 percent), diabetes (12.6 percent), heart disease (6.4 percent), high blood pressure (29.9 percent), and overweight or obesity (71 percent). Community leaders have recognized chronic disease as a major concern and recent feedback found that the top five priorities to address chronic disease disparities included food access. Neighborhoods within the target area are within an identified a food desert and a food swamp.

Plan4Health Tarrant County will increase the availability of healthy foods through the promotion of retail policies and practices, which includes piloting food carts and a mobile food market as well as recruiting stores to participate in a Healthy Corner Stores program. These efforts will also serve as a model for other municipalities within Tarrant County and beyond. Additionally, the coalition will work to improve community health and health equity by ensuring health considerations are incorporated into the city’s planning and zoning efforts. Traditional and social media campaigns will be implemented to promote these efforts, increase engagement, and improve the dialogue between the community, partners, and stakeholders.