The Intersection of City Planning and Our Health: Integrating Community Design and Public Health

We are living longer than we did 100 years ago primarily due to breakthroughs in sanitation, communicable diseases, and development of antibiotics.  However, today our concerns have shifted as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes rates are all on the rise.  We have also seen an uptick in pedestrian and traffic fatalities and serious injuries.  The design of our communities, housing, transportation infrastructure, and open space, strongly influences human behavior and activity, which subsequently brings cascading effects on our health and well-being.  We are adversely impacted by poor air quality, traffic exposure, heat, noise, and limited opportunity for physical activity and social interaction.  These emerging trends in city planning and public health have converged as we realize the magnitude of impact that development patterns and urban form have on our health and the quality of our lives. 

We have begun to look further “upstream” at the development of our cities for answers to improving our health.  An early focus on built environment and access to healthy foods was accompanied by the revelation that health outcomes vary greatly based on location, income, and ethnic makeup. More recently, the discussion has shifted to incorporate equitable access to opportunity as a foundational element of planning for healthy communities.

Join Paula Reeves, Healthy Communities Lead for Washington State Department of Health, as she discusses work underway at all levels for change at the intersection of city planning, public health and equity.  She will discuss current and emerging challenges, opportunities and successes breaking new ground to create anchors and allies in advancing healthy communities, assuring health equity in decision making, and why this change is so critical to our state, our region, our communities and our neighborhoods.  Paula will provide examples of how new health data and public input is being leveraged to help meet our healthy community goals and requirements.

About the Speaker

Paula Reeves
Paula Reeves
Washington State Department of Health

Paula Reeves, AICP CTP has been planning and developing infrastructure projects for over twenty years. She came to Washington State Department of Health, Healthy Communities, in 2018, from Washington State Department of Transportation where she managed the Community Design Office providing a range of transportation planning and engineering services to cities, counties, and special districts across the state.  Paula has also traveled around the US doing community design work for major metropolitan areas with the American Institute of Architects, Sustainable Design Assessment Team.

Paula is a practicing mediator in Thurston County, immediate Past President of the American Planning Association (APA) Washington Chapter, and 2018 recipient of the Robert Burke Award for distinguished service from APA. 

In 2016, Paula received Alumnus of the Year from her alma mater, University of Florida, Architecture College, where she completed her Masters Degree in Urban and Regional Planning.  She earned her Bachelor’s Degree from Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida.

Environmental Speaker Series

The Environmental Speaker Series is hosted by the College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

The Series is free and open to the public. Talks are held each Thursday at 4:30 pm in Academic Instructional Center West room 204 - AW-204. Talks will also be streamed via zoom. Register with the Alumni Association for the zoom link. Paid parking is available in lot C.

Learn more about the Environmental Speaker Series
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