The Illinois Public Health Institute and the Chicago Department of Public Health are excited to release findings and recommendations from a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that was conducted in 2015-2016. IPHI and CDPH partnered with the city’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and numerous community partners to conduct a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) of a proposed multi-use trail in the Englewood and West Englewood community areas of Chicago.
The HIA report includes recommendations to maximize the positive health benefits of trail development and reduce potential negative health impacts.
The proposed trail will be elevated, converting a former rail line to a trail that will run parallel to 59th Street and eventually cover approximately 1.7 miles from Hoyne Avenue on the West to Wallace Street on the East. The City of Chicago’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and Teska Associates began work to design the trail in 2015, and they plan to begin construction on one of the trail access points in partnership with GreenCorps in 2017.
This is the first HIA conducted by CDPH, and is demonstrative of CDPH’s commitment to Health in All Policies under Healthy Chicago 2.0, a four-year plan to improve health equity. The HIA assessed the potential health impacts that would result from short-term and long-term decisions related to trail development and maintenance. In addition to DPD, other important decision makers during the project will include local alderman, the Chicago Plan Commission, City Council. Chicago Park District, Cook County Forest Preserve, Chicago Public Schools, and funders.
The proposed trail could have significant impacts in Englewood and West Englewood. Development of the trail represents an opportunity to bring significant investment and improved quality of life for individuals in these communities. The trail project also presents an important opportunity for community members to have input and leadership in decision-making regarding development in Englewood.
A community engaged process was used to identify eight major health impact topics for the HIA. The topic areas included:
- Access to green space and parks
- Changes in community safety
- Community cohesion and ownership
- Safety from crime
- Traffic safety
- Economic and workforce development
- Environmental conditions
- Air quality
- Contaminated sites and brownfields
During the HIA process, community safety was identified as a top issue that could impact community resident’s use of the trail. As a result, the HIA team partnered with Dr. Jacqueline Curtis, the Associate Director of the GIS Health and Hazards Lab at Kent State University, to conduct a survey assessing community perceptions of safety for the areas surrounding the proposed trial site. More than 50 surveys were contributed by individuals who live or work in the areas nearest the proposed trail site and the HIA team was able to make specific recommendations for improving community perceptions of safety on or near the proposed trail.
The HIA was supported by a grant from the Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, with funding from the de Beaumont Foundation. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Health Impact Project, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, or de Beaumont Foundation.
A mini grant for tool evaluation of the Parks, Trails and Health Workbook was provided by the National Association of County and City Health Officials.