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. NCDC’s Shaping Healthy Communities initiative engages the causes and outcomes of health defeating community design, and seeks to influence the creation of communities that make the healthy choice, the easy choice.

Catalyzing this focus was the 2016 publication Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan, the product of three years of planning, research, design and writing, that 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.

NCDC strategies derived from the book are tailored to each transect, and focus on six built environment “factors” that impact health: neighborhood design & development, transportation, walkability & pedestrian safety, food resources, housing, and open space & parks.

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, such as obesity, type II diabetes, heart disease, and asthma. With this wealth of data, information, and tools to inform policy, development, planning and design, the Shaping Healthy Communities initiative is a catalyst to transform Nashville into the “Healthiest City in the South.”

Like The Plan of Nashville: Avenues to a Great City, this book is a collaboration of the Nashville Civic Design Center, Vanderbilt University Creative Services, and Vanderbilt University Press.


"Nashville is already a national leader in the health care industry, but I want nothing less than for us to be a national leader in health. As a physician and a policymaker, my mantra has become 'make the healthy choice the easy choice.' Shaping the Healthy Community is about just that."

--from the Preface by Senator William H. Frist, MD

"Twenty-first-century cities are reinventing themselves, and the best and brightest want to live in lively, healthy places. Cities must tell their stories to the world, as Nashville has done, beautifully."

-- Richard J. Jackson, MD, MPH, was for nine years Director of the CDC's National Center for Environmental Health

"Nashville, the city that has shaped our popular culture and made it global, now stands to help us rethink our built environment. Though this book's focus is on one unique American city, its findings provide metropolitan cultures everywhere with a blueprint for healthy living. With their thorough research and analysis, the authors point the way to achieving the human- and Earth-centered places our century is ready to embrace."

-- Susan S. Szenasy, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Metropolis Magazine

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.

AARP Action Report: Community Challenge Grant

AARP Action Report: Community Challenge Grant

This publication is a summary of the results and findings of the Grant awarded to NCDC from AARP. This project used tactical urbanist methods to influence neighborhood change.

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.

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