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Spotlight on Riverside County Department of Public Health


Riverside County Department of Public Health (RCDPH) addresses the connection between community design and public health, particularly as it relates to physical activity, nutrition, and injury prevention. This work began when RCDPH incorporated the goal of creating more livable communities into its strategic plan.

This goal includes the following approaches:

  • Working with developers to ensure that health and safety factors are considered (e.g., bike paths, safe walking routes, town squares, ample health education opportunities, etc.);
  • Working with stakeholders to redesign existing communities to enhance health and safety factors;
  • Working with other disciplines to ensure that communities are livable (e.g., law enforcement, parks and recreation, traffic engineers, local businesses, etc.); and
  • Helping new communities work together to create a "community" through identified activities (e.g., Neighborhood Watch, graffiti removal, market nights, block events, etc.).

The staff involved with the RCDPH strategic planning process included the health officer, assistant health officer, director, and four deputy directors. The strategic plan included five major goals with a champion responsible for the goals' implementation. The program created one full-time staff position and generated interest among elected officials, the planning department, and other health agencies in the region.

Successes

RCDPH experienced success in many ways that relate to development. For example, an area developer solicited input from the agency on creating design elements to encourage health, physical activity, and a sense of community for a new development that will house 50,000 residents.

RCDPH livable community staff have been presenting at several statewide conferences and workshops on the promotion of livable communities. For more information, visit the RCDPH Web site at http://www.rivco-buildhealth.org.

Tips from RCDPH Staff

  1. Include the schools and developers, they have a vital role.
  2. Inform stakeholders about why they should be involved.
  3. Carry out walking audits in the community.
  4. Wear a pedometer; carry a camera and tape measure during audits. The visual piece is important when educating others.
  5. Don't be afraid to talk to people.
  6. Talk about the importance of health and don't begin by asking for anything in return.
  7. Public health can bring stakeholders together while being seen as neutral.
  8. The local public health agency needs to take the initiative. Don't wait for others to come to you.
  9. Ask community members to be a part of the process of developing and redeveloping their communities.
  10. As our motto states, public health works to "Build Health into Everyday Life."