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Summit Promotes GeoDesign for Healthy Communities

More than 130 public health professionals gathered for the inaugural Healthy Communities by Design Summit to share their work in creating places that promote healthy minds and bodies in a sustainable environment.

The summit was held November 15–18, 2010, at Esri's Redlands, California, headquarters and at the Loma Linda University (LLU) campus in Loma Linda, California. Esri and LLU cohosted the event.

"Designing and building healthy communities improves quality of life for all and creates an environment in which every person is free to age in place and remain all their lives in a community that reflects their changing lifestyles and changing physical capabilities," said Jack Dangermond, Esri president and one of the event's keynote speakers. Healthy community design provides a framework for creating communities that improve the quality of life for residents while respecting the natural environment.

At this invitation-only event, researchers, program directors, physicians, nurses, and students from government public health agencies, universities, nonprofits, and businesses met to discuss the environmental factors that affect health and how geospatial analysis can be incorporated into community planning practices.

The program, which spanned two and a half days, included presentations, moderated panel discussions by leaders in the community planning and design, environmental health, health policies and research, and built environment disciplines. The topics discussed include not only research and policy development but also strategies for educating and engaging communities.

"We exceeded our expectations," said Bill Davenhall in his closing remarks. Davenhalll, one of the event's organizers and Esri's health and human services industry manager, said his goal for the conference was to make sure that healthy communities was well represented in the discussion of GeoDesign. He observed that people in the healthy communities movement are doing important work but are struggling. An important goal going forward is finding better ways to share often limited resources. GIS tools are useful to this end but are not broadly, or in some cases, intelligently used. "Results matter. This issue needs to be in your face. Instant gratification is required to get people to change. They have to see change and need community feedback," said Davenhall.

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