MountainElements Health Impact Assessment has been recognized as an outstanding achievement in making health a priority for the Western North Carolina region

MountainWise has received a Marvin Collins Planning Award in the Special Theme Awards/Multidisciplinary Project category for its MountainElements Health Impact Assessment. The award, which goes to projects featuring interdisciplinary collaboration as a primary means of ensuring success, will be presented during the American Planning Association North Carolina (APA-NC) chapter’s annual conference on October 22, 2015.

MountainElements is a first-of-its kind, eight-county Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Comprehensive Plans and was produced as a result of North Carolina’s Community Transformation Grant Project (CTG). MountainElements analyzed the plans of eight counties in Western North Carolina: Clay, Cherokee, Graham, Haywood, Jackson, Macon, Swain and Transylvania.

“We are very pleased to receive this award from APA-NC for the MountainElements Health Impact Assessment,” said Sarah Tennyson, Regional Coordinator for MountainWise. “This recognition will further help us to advance the regional conversation about the importance of health and how it can be facilitated through effective planning.”

Through the HIA process of evaluating likely health impacts of a variety of planning actions, it was revealed that there is great support in the region for food systems planning. The planning team determined that a robust regional, county and municipal approach to planning for food systems also introduced more traditional planning themes to the region (e.g. land use, farmland preservation, transportation networks and economic development) through the lens of health and healthy eating.

The health departments of each county came together to lead the process of partnering with their respective Economic Development Departments and Planning Departments, as well as the Southwestern Commission, the Council of Government for North Carolina’s Region A.

“Collaborative partnerships are the cornerstone of public health practice, but that can be easier said than done,” said Jim Bruckner, MSHS, Health Director for Macon County. “MountainElements successfully connected land-use planning, community design, and public health practice and policy to build healthier communities in Western North Carolina. I am personally proud of the achievements we’ve made as a region, especially this one.”

The award committee commended MountainWise for their extensive county-by-county analysis and their evidence-based recommendations for incorporating health considerations into the planning process.

About MountainWise

MountainWise is a partnership of the Health Departments in the eight westernmost counties of North Carolina to provide opportunities for physical activity, access to local fresh fruits and vegetables, provide support for tobacco-free places and access to services for chronic-disease management. When environments encourage and are supportive of healthy choices, it becomes easier to make those choices.

By honoring traditions and embracing the natural resources of the mountains, MountainWise aims to make the healthy choice the easy choice and strengthen the health of all communities in Western North Carolina.

For all press inquiries, please contact Sarah Tennyson, Regional Coordinator for MountainWise, at sarah(at)mountainwise(dot)org.

About the Marvin Collins Planning Awards

The 2015 Marvin Collins Planning Awards program is the 37th such program of the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association (NCAPA, or, as now known, APA-NC) recognizing agencies and individuals that have completed outstanding plans, programs, and projects, have excelled as planning students, or have made notable contributions to the planning profession. The awards represent the highest standards of achievement in the planning profession in North Carolina.

The late Marvin Collins developed the idea of an awards program in 1975 for the North Carolina Chapter of the American Institute of Planners, which preceded the NCAPA. He gained approval and assumed responsibility for establishing the program. Marvin received a Distinguished Professional Achievement Award from the NCAPA just prior to his death in 1998. In 2001, the NCAPA Executive Committee named the program in Marvin’s honor to recognize his service to the Chapter.