Partners for a Healthier Community Nabs Complete Streets Study Grant

SPRINGFIELD — Partners for a Healthier Community (PHC), the public-health institute of Western Mass., has received one of only nine national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Policies for Action Grants for $250,000 to study Springfield’s Complete Streets policy.

Complete Streets refers to policies that support roadways that are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users by prioritizing pedestrian, bike, and public transportation. Springfield’s City Council passed a resolution adopting the Complete Streets Plan and Implementation Guide in October 2015.

PHC and Tufts University, led by principal investigators Kathleen Szegda and Erin Hennessy, will investigate whether Complete Streets policies lead to changes in the built environment, the economic environment, the social environment, and healthy behaviors.

“This is one of the first studies to holistically examine the overall impact of Complete Streets on the health and well-being of a community through an equity lens,” noted Szegda, the director of Research and Evaluation for Partners for a Healthier Community.

This project will be advised by public-health planning and transportation consultant Mark Fenton and will be implemented in collaboration with Springfield’s Department of Public Works and Department of Planning and Economic Development.

According to Scott Hanson, principal planner at the Springfield Office of Planning and Development, “this award will allow us to further study the effects of how Complete Streets initiatives improve the built environment and health of our city’s residents.”

This research project builds on the efforts of the LiveWell Springfield Coalition, which has been working on built-environment policies, systems, and programs since 2007. LiveWell Springfield, convened by Partners for a Healthier Community and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, developed and presented the Complete Street Plan and Implementation Guide for the city of Springfield. Since the adoption of the plan, the coalition has worked on education, advocacy, and supporting implementation of the Complete Streets policy.

This research is a quasi-experimental, mixed-methods, participatory research project using an equity lens. It will holistically examine effects of adoption and implementation of a Complete Streets policy on Springfield, a mid-sized city experiencing numerous health inequities.

The research team will partner with LiveWell Springfield’s Transforming Community Initiative, funded by Mercy Medical Center and Trinity Health, and will engage community residents in data collection (such as bike/pedestrian counts) and interpretation efforts.

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