51st Conference - Topics

At this conference, we shall pay special attention to effective strategies and visionary design solutions to making our cities and suburbs healthy and livable for all – young and old, poor and well-to do, and those with health and mobility issues. We shall focus on the following critical elements:


  • Reclaiming the public realm
  • Active mobility and complete streets
  • Family-friendly housing
  • Building lifetime community districts
  • Reshaping suburban sprawl
  • A healthy city for children
  • Achieving neighborhood health equity
  • Preventing and ending homelessness
  • Food environments
  • Integrating public health and planning
  • Generating community participation
  • Green cities
  • Learning from Portland

Reclaiming the public realm:

We must redesign our streets and create squares to facilitate social interaction. Rewarding everyday social contacts improve physical and social health for all, facilitate social networks, build social capital, and generate community. We are especially interested in presentations of successful urban space designs.

Topics include:

  • Social capital & the built environment
  • Who owns the public realm?
  • Designing sociable streets
  • Considering sun, wind, rain
  • Canyon effects and life on the street
  • Designing squares to generate community
  • Squares for all

Active mobility and complete streets:

Our streets must facilitate independent mobility and access for all. They must encourage walking and biking, and enhance social life. Where do we see the best examples of hospitable streets for all?

Topics include:

  • Design of complete streets
  • Accessibility for all
  • Making streets safe
  • Public transit and land use priorities
  • Safest designs for bike routes
  • Street designs that prioritize the pedestrian
  • Green streets
  • Latest traffic calming designs
  • Living streets, Home zones, Play Streets

Family-friendly affordable housing:

Housing designs have emphasized privacy at the expense of connectedness. Yet studies show that too much privacy (social isolation) can be detrimental to mental and physical health. This is especially true for mothers, children, elders and students. Multi-family housing designs need to balance privacy with connectedness. Easy access to shops, services, jobs, school and friends is also important for successful housing. We especially invite presentations that show successful solutions to the following issues:

Topics include:

  • The importance of social networks for physical and mental health
  • Housing families in the city center
  • Multi-family housing designs that allow small children independent play near home
  • Multi-family housing designs that facilitate social networking
  • Mixed income multi-family housing
  • Mixed-use commercial and housing
  • Courtyard housing
  • Shared equity housing
  • Workforce housing close to jobs
  • Mitigating problems in high-rise housing

Building lifetime community districts:

What would it take to create a neighborhood where children can play on the street and know their neighbors? Where adults can walk or take public transit to work, and have many friends within a short bike ride? Where elders can continue to live in their homes because they can safely access stores, services and friends by wheelchair? We invite discussions of designs that prevent social isolation, and of visionary solutions to revive “complete communities” hospitable for people at all stages of life, and abilities.

Topics include:

  • Planning livable places for all ages and abilities
  • Design guidelines for a lifetime community
  • Village in the city, Urban village, 10-minute neighborhood
  • Complete community for all ages and income levels
  • Ensuring diverse housing options

Reshaping suburban sprawl:

20th century single function zoning created an extremely unhealthy, auto-dominated environment that discouraged active mobility and sociability, and fostered obesity and social isolation. We invite presentations on the best models for reshaping sprawl into healthy, walkable and sociable environments.

Topics include:

  • Increasing suburban density
  • Focused mixed-use infill
  • Transforming schools into multi-functional community centers
  • Reshaping suburban shopping malls into town centers
  • From strip mall to neighborhood center  
  • Incremental redevelopment
  • Transit accessible development
  • From highway to complete street
  • Living streets, Home zones, Play Streets
  • Walkable 10-minute neighborhoods

A healthy city for children:

It takes a village – i.e. a whole network of community members – to raise a child. Both high-rise apartments and suburban sprawl tend to isolate children, depriving them of needed social contacts, and reducing opportunities for everyday physical activity. How can we create cities and neighborhoods where children can independently access the city’s cultural resources, and have contact with a wide range of familiars of all ages?

Topics include:

  • Family-friendly housing in the city
  • Safe complete streets
  • Eyes on the street
  • Multi-functional schools
  • 10-minute neighborhoods
  • Accessible neighborhood social centers, parks and gardens

Achieving neighborhood health equity:

Where we live defines how healthy we are. Poor neighborhoods are underserved – they lack sidewalks, streets are dangerous, buildings are poorly maintained or abandoned, and community disintegrates. Consequently, social networks deteriorate, physical health breaks down, children suffer malnutrition and stress, IQ levels do not develop as they should, and crime thrives. How do we select focused interventions to improve health in poor neighborhoods?

Topics include:

  • Overcoming neighborhood health inequalities
  • Strategic interventions: land use & transportation
  • Stabilizing the heart of a poor neighborhood with infill mixed use
  • Strengthening social networks and community efficacy
  • Shared equity funding and sweat equity projects
  • Making streets safe
  • Access to healthy food

Preventing and ending homelessness:

The economic collapse continues to take a terrible toll. A catastrophic illness, loss of job, and loss of mortgage forced thousands of families and individuals onto the streets. This unprecedented challenge requires innovative step-by-step design and program solutions to prevent further homelessness and help homeless persons regain a productive place in society.

Topics include:

  • Homeless encampments in the city – a first step?
  • Special needs and solutions for homeless families
  • Special needs of homeless veterans, elders, those chronically ill
  • Combining transitional housing, with jobs & services
  • Ensuring very low income affordable housing
  • Innovative funding to prevent homelessness          

Food environments:

How can we ensure access to healthy food for all? Where are the best models to assure healthy, affordable, accessible food? How can we raise children to enjoy healthy food?  

Topics include:

  • Community and school gardens
  • Farmers Markets, Mobile markets and Food carts
  • Roof gardens & sidewalk gardens
  • Community, non-profit and corner store groceries
  • Gleaning, food recovery, food distribution

Integrating public health and planning:

Public health and planning professionals bring different knowledge, strategies and tools to the understanding of how the built environment affects health and well-being, and different approaches to creating healthy environments.

Topics include:

  • Framing the public debate
  • Public health & urban planning departments collaborate
  • University curricula combine health and planning
  • Public health element in master plans
  • Health Impact Assessment methods and case studies
  • Tools for healthy planning

Generating community participation:

Community members are the experts in knowing how the built environment affects their lives, yet their voices are seldom heard in the planning process. We will hear about successful models of community advocacy.

Topics include:

  • Community-led urban revitalization
  • Community participation in planning/urban design issues
  • Healthy transportation planning with the community
  • Children & elder advocates for healthy communities
  • Civic engagement for environmental justice
  • The benefits of community participation

Green cities:

It is important to support a diversity of natural biotopes in our cities not only for ecological sustainability but also for human health and well-being. Humans flourish when in contact with other living things – people, trees, plants and animals - when we see these from our dwelling, and have physical and sensory contact in parks, plazas and streets.

Topics include:

  • Importance of nature for children and elders (and everyone else)
  • Accessible parks, gardens and green roofs
  • Green streets, tree canopies, planter strips & swales
  • Preventing run-off through pervious paving
  • Protecting the health of natural systems in the city

Learning from Portland:

Portland is not perfect, but over the years – with good guidance from the community – the city has achieved a high degree of health and livability for most, and is constantly searching for ways to improve. Portland City Commissioners and staff, University faculty, and others will lead tours, share achievements, and discuss their approaches to ongoing challenges.

Topics include:

  • Creating a metro-area bicycle commuting network
  • 20-minute neighborhoods
  • Max light rail, streetcar, tram and bus network
  • Mixed-use human scale housing
  • Affordable parking-less housing near transit
  • New family housing in the city
  • Housing the homeless
  • Creating new public squares and parks
  • Neighborhood planning activism
  • The challenge of making the poorest neighborhoods healthy