The shape that we give our city, in turn shapes us.

The product of three years of planning, research, design and writing, Shaping the Healthy Community: The Nashville Plan explores the relationships between the built environment and public health within the context of Nashville, TN. 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 both health promoting and 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.

Over the past decade, public health officials have established ever stronger links between the qualities of the built environment and the startling rise of largely preventable diseases. With this wealth of data, information, and tools to inform policy, development, planning and design, Shaping Healthy Communities 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


- Featured in Children's Health Crisis Documentary Film, 2012

- Presentation at National Conference in Seattle, Oct. 2013

- Featured in Local Leaders: Healthier Communities Through Design, 2012

- Presentation at Design & Health Summit in Washington DC, April 2014

- Presentation at HUD Healthy Homes Conference, May 2014

- Recipient of ULI Urban Innovation Grant, 2013-2014

- Recipient of NEA DesignWorks Grant, 2014-2015

Recent Projects

Alleyways of Nashville

Alleyways of Nashville

This publication shows some of the strategies that alley programs internationally have implemented in their work. Some have environmental benefits such as replacing asphalt with a more pervious material to collect water; while others have benefits for improving people's safety and perception of alleys such as providing lighting and visibility. Adopting even a few of these strategies could help transform alleys in Nashville which could becomes more active and prosperous. Most of these strategies require low maintenance, but it is important to take advantage of public space as a canvas for programming social activity. 

Fairgrounds Public Meetings Report

Fairgrounds Public Meetings Report

The Nashville Civic Design Center was asked by Mayor David Briley and the Fairgrounds Nashville Board of Directors, to facilitate a series of public meetings with the Fairgrounds Design Team, to get input in order to inform a more refined version of the Fairground Improvement Plan.

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