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Public Health & the Built Environment: Healthy Communities by Design

May 7, 2014 · San Antonio

The city of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) hosted its second annual Public Health and the Built Environment conference to explore the impact of the built environment on chronic disease, environmental health and other public health concerns. Keynote speaker was Chuck Marohn, co-founder and president of Strong Towns. Sessions explored what works both in San Antonio and around the country when designing and creating healthy communities.

The conference was the result of a community effort led by Metro Health, in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA), the American Institute of Architects—San Antonio, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio Institute of Health Promotion Research, UTSA College of Architecture, and various city of San Antonio departments.


7:30 a.m.

Registration and Breakfast

8:15 a.m.

Morning Plenary Session
Chuck Marohn
, Strong Towns
This session explored the need to rethink our strategic infrastructure investments by considering how we’ve grown our communities in the past. It will also focus on why communities need to engage their residents in the planning and redevelopment processes.

9:40 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Foundations of Health


Health Equity from a Neighborhood Perspective
Health equity is an often overlooked factor in cities, which can have significant consequences for communities in terms of health, economics, social fabric and quality of life.


Planning for Health
This session explored the role of planning in improving public health. Topics covered include land use, transportation, air and water quality, and planning education and research.


Feeding Ourselves
Food is a critical part of our built environment. This session explored the most important considerations our city needs to make to maximize potential for healthy food while overviewing several current successes.

10:50 a.m.

Breakout Sessions: Actions of Health


Economic Gardening
This session examined successful examples of economic gardening, where businesses that promote healthy neighborhoods have been created in often overlooked neighborhoods throughout the country.


All over the country, people are changing their landscapes with little more than basic raw ingredients like paint, cement and mulch.


These local movers and shakers are making waves in the neighborhoods in which they live and work by promoting creative ways to live active lifestyles.

11:50 a.m.

Networking Lunch

12:35 p.m.

Afternoon Plenary Session
John Simmerman, ActiveTowns
This session explored the critical factors that healthy communities possess, in terms of having a healthy built environment, as well as an active living culture among residents.

1:45 p.m.

Breakout Sessions: Innovations of Health


This session examined the multiple benefits of Houston and San Antonio’s SPARK School Park campaign and how it is changing the local landscape in these cities.


Healthy Workplaces: Designs & Policies
These places of business are models in healthy building design and integration into the local landscape.


Play for All
Through creative, thoughtful design, play spaces can be designed for all ages and people.

2:45 p.m.

Focused Sessions


Public Health & Planning During San Antonio’s Formative History
Steven Land Tillotson, Munoz & Co.
This session identified how historical considerations of the natural environment and human well-being influenced the formation of San Antonio’s urban scale, street connectivity and access to open space.


A Developer’s Perspective on Health & Quality of Life
Perry Bigelow, Bigelow Homes
This session explored profitable approaches to development, which significantly enhance residents’ quality of life.

3:45 p.m.

Final Panel Discussion
Chuck Marohn
John Simmerman

Thomas Schlenker, San Antonio Metropolitan Health District
Moderated by Pilar Oates, Independent contractor

4:45 p.m.


For More Information

Contact David Clear at or 210-207-2002.


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