Does your city make you sick? Cuyahoga County and Cleveland expect to find out where are the greatest health disparities within the region. Their $100,000 Health Impacts Assessment (HIA) is looking at a range of social and environmental conditions—from crime to roads—since they are stronger indicators of health than genetics, says Martha Halko at the county Board of Health.
The results could color the work of a group that includes the Cleveland Metroparks interested in building a network of greenways and bike infrastructure (trails, lanes, sharrows) linking Cleveland and 13 eastern suburbs.
Similar to its 2008-2012 life expectancy study—which discovered a 20-year disparity between parts of Cleveland and its suburbs—the County will suss out who has the safest walking routes, well-stocked grocery stores, high quality, mixed-income housing and parks and who has the most ‘unhealthy community’ factors like, where it is unsafe even in daylight to walk and bike.
Euclid did a HIA as a precursor to a redevelopment plan for Euclid Avenue which has been hollowed out because of sprawl and big box retail. Twenty-six percent of households in six Census tracts around Euclid live below the poverty line.
“What kind of place do we want this to be?” said Jim Sonnhalter a planner who led the study. “We looked at how we can move pedestrians and bikes and transit in an efficient manner.”
It helped determine what do to with intersections and informed RTA’s HealthLine extension study. They also looked at repurposing a sidewalk on E. 222nd Street as a multi-use path connecting Euclid Creek Reservation to a new lakefront park. A detailed plan for the path was produced through a simultaneous Transportation for Livable Communities (TLCI) study. They also looked at how bike paths could improve access to healthy food.
Sonnhalter didn’t offer specifics but confirms the HIA provides metrics that could inform the land use and transportation goals of a city.
The Eastside greenway group is also applying for a TLCI grant that it will cross-reference with the new health study and its ‘best and worst’ indicators.
“What is the equity of a trail?” asked Cleveland city planner Freddie Collier. He went on to answer with a story that his Planning Commission colleagues persuaded him to ride a bike on the Towpath recently—his first venture on two wheels since childhood.
“It changed my outlook,” said Collier, who, it has been speculated, is a candidate for Cleveland Planning Director when current director, Bob Brown, retires. “That ride helped me discover something. How you bring in to view the human impact. The greenway could bridge the land use and health communities.”