Building Healthy Communities

Project Title

State of the State’s Health

Grant Amount


Priority Area

Building Healthy Communities

Date Awarded

January 3, 2020







Policymakers and planners make decisions daily that affect a community’s wellbeing. However, the planning process often lacks a comprehensive approach to including health in constructing the built environment.

This has resulted in physical environments that are detrimental to public health and wide variations across regions. For example, Rockland County ranks highest in New York State based on length and quality of life, whereas Sullivan County, only 50 miles to the northwest, is ranked second to last. Addressing these intra-state health disparities should be a key component of efforts to improve the built environment. The Regional Plan Association (RPA) has incorporated health into its “State of the Region’s Health,” which synthesizes literature reviews, quantitative data, and focus groups to demonstrate the relative health of different parts of the New York metropolitan area, as well as how urban systems influence health outcomes. In 2020, NYHealth awarded RPA a grant to build on its existing work and produce the “State of the State’s Health,” a report highlighting how different parts of New York State are performing on various health indicators.

Under this grant, RPA looked at how New York State’s infrastructure institutions plan and design environments with public health in mind and how these infrastructure systems can be used to improve the health of all New Yorkers. The “State of the State’s Health” presented a baseline of how different parts of New York State are performing according to various health indicators. RPA’s analysis measured health outcomes to identify patterns shaped by the built environment and recommended how projects, programs, and policies could be improved. It pulled from existing health data sets, such as the County Health Rankings and City Health Dashboard, to benchmark health status and disparities across New York State. Metrics were developed to cover a wide range of health-related themes, including community safety, housing and transit, climate change, physical activity, access to health care, and air and water quality. The data was used to make recommendations to improve health outcomes. Finally, RPA shared the report with policymakers, practitioners, advocates, and the public, engaging them to learn about the findings and help identify next steps for implementation.