Rejoining the Planning and Public Health Fields
Leveraging Comprehensive Plans to Strengthen Food Systems in an Urban versus Rural Jurisdiction
The growth of health disparities in the United States, particularly those associated with diet-related diseases, has motivated a reconvergence of the public health and planning disciplines to address this shared challenge. However, the dynamics and mechanisms through which public health and planning agencies can systematically address food-related issues have yet to be fully understood. This study analyzes how partnership between public health professionals and planners in local, regional, and metropolitan (LRM) governments can strengthen community food systems through a more integrated and holistic approach to health. Using a national survey of planning practitioners, we identify which formal local government plans are more likely to address food-related issues, as a way to offer insights on where engagement with public health agencies could be leveraged. Our analysis is further complemented by conducting semistructured interviews with LRM governments in two communities that are known for their innovative plans and policies, to explore how this cross-disciplinary relationship unfolds on the ground. Findings reveal that comprehensive plans are most likely to address the food system, while stand-alone food systems plans are the least common formal plan to be adopted by LRM governments. Stakeholder interviews highlight how the planning–public health partnership can leverage local assets and strengthen the food system in urban versus rural jurisdictions, by formalizing cross-collaboration, identifying shared objectives, and building capacity.
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