In an attempt gauge the effectiveness of the major planokc components as they relate to community health in Oklahoma City, a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) was completed to evaluate the potential for various city-wide development patterns to influence opportunities related to health. It is widely understood that how a city grows affects the people and businesses who call it home. The HIA evaluates whether one of those effects is health, and if so, which aspects of health.
The HIA identified 35 measures or indicators that have the potential to change based on how Oklahoma City grows over the next few decades. Each of these measures was analyzed for each alternative growth scenario being tested as part of the Growth Scenarios Analysis described in this chapter. Because it is tied to the Growth Scenarios Analysis, the HIA assumes the same population and job growth for each scenario.
Key Findings and Recommendations
The HIA process resulted in numerous findings and recommendations related to improving health in Oklahoma City. The following strategies, if implemented, have important components that are very likely to have a noticeable positive impact on the community over the next several years.
Create more opportunities for walking and biking. The development pattern and variety of uses within and close to neighborhoods strongly influence people’s desire to walk or ride a bike. If the environment feels safe to pedestrians and cyclists and there are useful destinations within a reasonable distance, many more people will opt to walk or bike, either frequently, or occasionally. This situation offers several key benefits to public health, including increased physical activity and reduced vehicle emissions.
Increase access to fresh healthy produce. Many neighborhoods in Oklahoma City have relatively poor access to healthy food choices. Increasing the variety of and access to healthy food through urban farms, community gardens, and better access to stores with healthy food will have direct health benefits for individuals and the community.
Improve and protect water quality. The development pattern Oklahoma City chooses for the next 5 to 15 years has the potential to affect water quality in two key ways 1) the number of individual septic systems that require regular maintenance; and 2) the amount of impervious and manicured surfaces (roofs, paving, and lawns) which contribute pollutants and nutrients to runoff.
Increase access to parks and schools. Having easy access to parks and/or schools and playgrounds provides a community with both gathering places and opportunities for physical activity. The pattern and design of neighborhoods can influence this access.
Increase safety and security. Many factors affect how safe people feel in a particular neighborhood or location. Typically places that are well-populated, well-lit, and have been designed with safety in mind feel inviting and safe.
Reduce occurrences of abandoned buildings. Abandoned buildings create a variety of negative consequences impacting the health of neighborhoods and their residents. Targeting redevelopment and revitalization efforts on areas with relatively high numbers of abandoned buildings has the potential to turn negative impacts into positive outcomes.
Increase the variety of housing types in and near the inner loop. People are attracted to the features and amenities found in more urban neighborhoods of Oklahoma City; however, there is not always desirable housing in those areas. Increasing the amount of high-quality small houses, townhomes, and condos will offer more households the options they are looking for as they consider relocating in Oklahoma City.