Shaping Healthy Communities

Shaping Healthy Communities



The shape that we give to our city, in turn shapes us. The form that Americans began to give to their cities and suburbs in the years following World War II has molded an increasingly overweight, under-active population subject, as a result, to a variety of preventable diseases.

Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan, the product of three years of planning, research, design and writing, explores the relationships between the built environment and public health. The book analyzes Nashville using the “transect,” an urban planning model central to the New Urbanist and smart growth movements. By considering the seven “transect zones” – natural, rural, suburban, urban, downtown, centers and districts – the book provides a diagnosis of the health promoting and health defeating aspects present in each.

Strategies tailored to each zone focus on six built environment “factors” that impact health: neighborhood design and development, transportation, walkability and pedestrian safety, food resources, housing, and open space and parks. Individual chapters include case studies of specific neighborhoods, contributions by experts in the various “factors,” info graphics, site photographs and detailed before-and-after visualizations.

Shaping the Healthy Community presents real world facts, policy recommendations and design strategies to enable health and planning professionals, developers and designers,  educators and community organizations to build places in which healthy eating and exercise can be part of daily life.

Funding for the project was provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) grant, the Nashville Public Health Department, Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, Tennessee Department of Transportation and Vanderbilt University.

In the past decade, public health officials have established ever stronger links between the qualities of the built environment and the startling rise of preventable diseases, e.g. obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease and asthma. With a wealth of data, information and tools to inform policy, development, planning and design, the Shaping Healthy Communities project will be a catalyst to transform Nashville into the “Healthiest City in the South.”


Recent Projects

A New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville

A New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville

During the Spring 2016 Semester, The Greater Nashville Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) requested the fourth year undergraduate Nashville Urban Design Studio to explore a proposal for a “New East Bank Neighborhood in Nashville.” The site is on the Cumberland River, just across from Downtown Nashville’s skyline. At the present time, despite its proximate location, it is an industrial wasteland: what urban theorist Alan Berger terms a Drosscape. The site is inherently bounded and constrained by the CSX mainline railroad embankment to the north, the elevated embankment of the I-65 interstate highway to the east, the Woodland Street embankment and extensive football stadium parking lots to the south, and the Cumberland River to the west. Nonetheless, with downtown Nashville’s extraordinary building boom ongoing, with no end in sight, this 55-acre location would seem ripe for urban redevelopment.

Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit

Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit

A continuation of both The Plan of Nashville and Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan, the Neighborhood Assessment Toolkit is an assessment and development scoring tool intended for local and community associations when engaging new development. The Toolkit is comprised of neighborhood and parcel assessment resources, along with a development scorecard based on the 10 Principles of the Plan of Nashville.

Placemaking: Challenges + Opportunities in Metro Nashville Preview

Placemaking: Challenges + Opportunities in Metro Nashville

The Project for Public Spaces, on their organization’s web site, asks “what if we built our communities around places?” They then go on to define Placemaking as “both an overarching idea and a hands-on approach for improving a neighborhood, city, or region, Placemaking inspires people to collectively reimagine and reinvent public spaces as the heart of every community.  Strengthening the connection between people and the places they share, Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.  More than just promoting better urban design, Placemaking facilitates creative patterns of use, paying particular attention to the physical, cultural, and social identities that define a place and support its ongoing evolution.”

Each team asked the questions “could the spaces proposed improve pedestrian, bicycle, and street connectivity?  Could they maintain and/or strengthen street and/or bike and pedestrian connections depending on the site?”  The intent was to promote walkable, bike-friendly environments and access to transit, with particular attention to providing connections between the proposed spaces and surrounding neighborhoods.

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