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Children's Health Protection

Designing Healthier Communities for Healthier Children


Children need healthy communities in which to live, learn, and thrive. The American Public Health Association Exit Disclaimer led the April 2006 National Public Health Week celebration by providing information to the public, policymakers, and practitioners about topics related to the year’s theme, "Designing Healthy Communities: Raising Healthy Kids".


What You Can Do

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What We're Doing

  • Smart Growth Conference Exit Disclaimer. EPA, the Smart Growth Network, and Kaiser Permanente sponsored a national conference for building safe, healthy, and livable communities. The conference was held in Denver in January 2006, attracted 1,250 attendees, and focused on connecting smart growth with public health. Local elected officials, planners, transportation professionals, traffic engineers, health professionals, public health advocates, and others explored new approaches to community design from a public health and safety perspective. The conference also dealt with promoting active living and walkability.


  • Smart Growth Awards: Denver’s Highland Garden Village. EPA's National Award for Smart Growth Development recognizes communities that use the principles of smart growth to create better places. Denver Urban Renewal Authority (DURA) was the overall winner of the 2005 competition. DURA facilitated the vision, design, financing, and economic development of Highland Garden Village, an innovative, compact, mixed-use community that has become a model for developments throughout the Denver area. Highland Garden Village offers a wide variety of home choices and includes shops, a school, and community gathering places as well as gardens, a carousel pavilion, and a restored historic theater. This type of community promotes more walking and less vehicle traffic which should lead to a reduction in air pollution and healthier children.


  • Green Buildings. The design, construction, operation, maintenance, and removal of buildings takes enormous amounts of energy, water, and materials, and generates large quantities of waste, air and water pollution, as well as creating stormwater runoff and heat islands. Buildings also develop their own indoor environments, which present an array of health challenges.

    Green building is the practice of creating healthier and more resource-efficient models of construction, renovation, operation, maintenance, and demolition. Research demonstrates that buildings designed and operated with lifecycle impacts in mind can provide environmental, economic, and social benefits. EPA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the American Institute of Architects to help the building and development community better serve the needs of society through proper design and management of the built environment. Learn about EPA's green building efforts.


  • Grants: Supporting Healthy Communities. In February 2006, EPA made $2.7M available to support community-based partnerships to reduce toxic risks in local communities through the Community Action for a Renewed Environment (CARE) program. View the CARE grant announcement (PDF, 39 pp., 116 K, About PDF). A range of community groups may apply for funding, including county and local governments, tribes, non-profit organizations and universities. This announcement closes on April 10, 2006.


  • Grants: Building Healthy Communities for Healthy Children. EPA awarded $130,000 to five communities for locally-based projects that improve and create healthy environments for children. Projects include:
    1. City of Cleveland, Ohio, targeted homes in at-risk neighborhoods that exhibited a prevalence of lead-based paint. This lead reduction project will result in children being less susceptible to health effects of lead exposure such as anaemia, nerve degeneration, and impaired motor skills. Ultimately, where lead hazards are found, homes will be abated. Once abatement is completed, property owners will be recognized for their efforts through a formalized credential program to help market these neighborhoods and homes as safe.
    2. The Vermont Forum on Sprawl administered the Healthy Neighborhoods/Healthy Kids project to link partners in community planning. Children, through the assistance of faculty and parents, created a smart growth and children’s health assessment "report card" to assess the walkability of their community. The program will create an education and outreach program to train parents and local officials about the merits of smart growth.
    3. In New Hampshire, the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust undertook a project to create a multi-use path connecting schools. The Concord River Greenway Project is a neighborhood-based planning effort to design a pedestrian/bike path that unites several communities along the Concord River.
    4. WalkBoston developed an environmental curriculum that elementary teachers could use to link safe routes to school with Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. This program, which teaches children how physical activity is good for their bodies and the environment (e.g., pedometers to teach math, route assessments to teach about the environment, and walking to teach about health and physical activity) is being implemented during the 2005-06 school year in K-5 classrooms. Two Boston elementary schools have been selected to participate.
    5. In Tennessee, the Cocke County Health department and Health Council teamed children and youth groups with local and county organizations to understand and prioritize smart growth issues related to children. Faculty and students from the University of Tennessee Extension will help participants plan, create, implement and evaluate smart growth programs. Through this process, a curriculum for identifying smart growth and children’s health projects will be developed and made available for other communities to adopt.

  • EPA's Clean School Bus USA Campaign. Diesel emissions can cause respiratory disease and exacerbate long-term conditions such as asthma in children. EPA's Clean School Bus Program will result in fewer cases of lower respiratory symptoms in healthy children, fewer cases of upper respiratory and asthma symptoms in asthmatic children, and fewer cases of acute bronchitis. This year, 37 U.S. school districts will receive $7.5 million for projects to replace older diesel school buses with newer, less-polluting models, and to retrofit other buses with emissions control technologies and cleaner fuels. The grants are part of the Agency’s 3-year-old Clean School Bus USA initiative. Recipients will contribute an additional $13 million in matching funds and in-kind services.

    Since the USA Clean Bus School Campaign began in 2003, 2,000,000 children are riding in 30,000 cleaner, healthier school buses. Learn more about Clean School Bus USA. In total, EPA has awarded $17.5 million appropriated by Congress for grants to 74 communities.


  • School Siting Standards. In many cases, schools are being built on or close to existing sources of air, water, and/or soil contamination. This contamination can impact the indoor air quality of the school and, in extreme cases, force the closure and abandonment of multi-million dollar facilities. The recent boom in school construction offers an unprecedented opportunity to improve the quality of schools and communities by applying the principles of smart growth.

    A school that is safe and easy for students, teachers, parents, and other community members to reach on foot or by bicycle helps reduce the air pollution from automobile use, protecting children's health. Building schools compactly and in the neighborhoods they serve minimizes the amount of paved surface they create, which can help protect water quality by reducing polluted runoff.

    Recognizing that schools were being built subject to siting standards that required large acreage to provide amenities for students, EPA worked with the Council of Education Facility Planners International to change these requirements. States and local school districts that are subject to state-approved standards are now re-evaluating the environmental and social impacts of building schools on green fields where students must be bussed or driven. By encouraging schools in compact neighborhoods with adequate access by foot or bike, students will be healthier and communities will be strong. Learn more about this program. Two additional school-related EPA projects are HealthySEAT and IAQ Design Tools for Schools.


  • High Performance Schools. High performance schools are facilities and their grounds that improve the learning environment while saving energy, resources, and money. A well-designed facility can enhance performance and make education more enjoyable and rewarding. Creating a high performance school requires an integrated, "whole building" approach to the design process. Key systems and technologies must be considered together and optimized based on their combined impact on the comfort and productivity of students and teachers.

    Benefits of high performance schools may include higher test scores, increased average daily attendance, reduced operating costs, increased teacher satisfaction and retention, reduced liability exposure, and reduced environmental impacts. Learn more about high performance schools.

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