Richmond Health and Wellness Plan Evaluation

California Endowment: City of Richmond Health and Wellness Plan Evaluation (Health and Wellness Element of Richmond General Plan Update)

Jason Corburn, Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning


June 2011


City of Richmond, California; Contra Costa County Health Services; California Endowment (Building Healthy Communities Initiative)

Project Description

UC Berkeley Professor of City and Regional Planning Jason Corburn presented research on health disparities and city geography to the Richmond city council in 2011, where he discussed the historic disconnect between urban planning and public health in low-income areas and communities of color. Richmond aims to bridge this gap by creating access paths to parks, the shoreline and other open spaces, aggressively promoting the Health and Wellness Element of the city’s General Plan, which has the explicit goal of “equitable distribution of park and recreational facilities.”

The city is embracing approaches to health that begin with changing the physical environment around people to confer more social opportunities. City leaders have sought advice from urban planning and health policy experts to cultivate better health outcomes for Richmond. Anthony Iton, former director of the Alameda County Health Department and a noted public health advocate, reframes public health in urban settings, sharing the emergent idea that behavior-based models, like pamphlets and seminars encouraging exercise and good nutrition, are ineffective in under-resourced communities. Iton’s position, which he outlined in a keynote speech to the nonprofit Urban Habitat, is that effective public health strategy is “not about changing behaviors, changing attitudes, or even increasing access to health care.” Rather, Iton argues, “Changing the identity of that physical environment may be the most direct way to improve health.”