In the healthy city framework, communities are respected for the local knowledge and assets they possess and are enabled to further refine and leverage these for greater impact in partnership with public health professionals, urban planners, transportation engineers, and environmental regulators, as well as with a broad range of civic and advocacy groups, such as housing coalitions, community development corporations, bicycle associations, urban gardeners, racial justice and immigrant rights groups.

Fast Facts:

In November 2002, the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition, which had developed a widely supported “People’s Plan” for community development, zoning, and land use in this San Francisco neighborhood, met with staff of the department of public health (SFDPH) to explore how health impact assessment might be utilized to further enrich their work. The process they developed led to a collaboration of more than two dozen civic groups with SFDPH and the planning department, which had just released a new zoning plan for the city’s Eastern Neighborhoods, covering the Mission District, Showplace Square-Potrero Hill, and South of Market.


The term “healthy city” was coined in its contemporary version by Leonard Duhl, a physician and professor of public health and planning at the University of California-Berkeley speaking at an international conference in Toronto in 1984.

In the U.S., healthy cities initially drew upon community health center and community action programs of the 1960s, with their distinct emphasis on participatory democracy, as well as upon the women’s health movement, self-help groups, and assets-based community development in subsequent decades.

From the late 1980s, healthy city and community projects were promoted through the National Civic League.

The Coalition for Healthier Cities and Communities (CHCC) formed in 1996 to further promote the model, and within two years some 450 organizations had affiliated.

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