Land Use

How land use decisions affect health & equity

Land use categories delineate the types of activities that people undertake as they go about their daily lives and meet their daily needs:

  • Housing – where people sleep, cook, clean up, and relax
  • Retail – where people shop for groceries, clothes, and other goods they want or need
  • Office and Industrial – where many people work
  • Civic – where government services are administered and community gatherings are held
  • Schools – where people of all ages are educated
  • Open Space – where people relax and recreate
  • Agriculture – where food is grown

These activities occur in centers, districts, corridors, and neighborhoods across a community. Each of these places is defined by its mix of land uses as well as its intensity and character of development (generally on a spectrum from rural to urban). Different patterns of land use and development influence people’s behaviors, experiences, and physical health in different ways.

Land use planning regulates the built environment by using land use categories to establish where in a community these different activities are permitted or restricted and what the buildings that accommodate these uses can look like. When communities regulate land use, they shape their built environment over time. By doing so, communities can provide residents and visitors with physical, emotional, social, economic, and civic benefits and help create healthier and fairer communities for the next generation. Therefore, it is critical that communities integrate health and equity considerations into their land use policies, plans, and practices.

Our land use tools are for city managers, planners, local leaders, and advocates who want to improve community health. Access the products below or see our collection of planning resources.

Planning Primer
Long-Range Planning for Health, Equity & Prosperity
Planners have the power to help create healthy, fair communities. This primer explains how planners can prioritize health and equity in their everyday work and decisionmaking.
Healthy General Plans Toolkit
How to Create and Implement Healthy General Plans
The general plan is a key land use policy document for California cities and counties. Download our toolkit to explore a wide range of strategies for integrating health considerations into general plans.
General Plan Roadmap
A Roadmap for Healthier General Plans
General plans can go a long way toward creating healthier neighborhoods. This roadmap highlights roles and strategies for key players in the planning process.
Episode 4 - Built Environment
Built Environment Webinar & Blog Post
This installment of our Building Healthy, Equitable Communities training series covers place-based policy strategies and how they connect to the broader determinants of health.