A health impact assessment (HIA) conducted in Orlando’s Parramore community to determine the impact of traffic-related pollution on residents’ asthma rates recommends some relatively simple solutions to make the environment healthier; the community should plant more trees and work to ensure no one lives within 75 meters of the major roads surrounding the area.
The HIA was conducted with graduate students in the University of Central Florida’s (UCF) Planning Healthy Communities course in the Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program in partnership with the Health Council of East Central Florida (HCECF). It was supported by a $10,000 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).
An HIA uses a combination of research and analysis procedures and methods that help decision-makers understand the health implications of a proposed development, policy, or procedural change.)
The assessment was overseen by the WPHF HIA Steering Committee, organized to further the use of HIAs in our community. And the Parramore HIA represents an important milestone in the Steering Committee’s work because it raised awareness with key area stakeholder groups about the importance of considering health impacts in the planning process for communities.
According to the Parramore HIA, studies have concluded that residing in homes near high traffic volume will greatly increase the chance of asthma in children. “The City of Orlando and partners should continue to plant trees in the Parramore neighborhood, especially in areas where citizens would benefit from a buffer between their homes and the frequent emissions and noise from the traffic that entrap their community,” said Sarah Stack, principal author of the Parramore HIA. The study notes trees provide a good filter for many toxins in the air, and acknowledges that along major roadways, such as Interstate 4, trees are often planted to reduce the negative impacts of vehicle emissions and noise.
The Parramore HIA was conducted in conjunction with a broader planning effort in the Parramore community being directed by the City of Orlando and VHB Miller Sellen, a local planning firm. This effort, the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan, will help create a 21st Century Parramore neighborhood that is fully integrated and connected into and supportive of SunRail and Downtown Orlando in an environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable manner, according to City of Orlando Planning documents.
HIA recommendations were presented to the City of Orlando and key stakeholders by the UCF students, their instructor, Lisa Portelli–also WPHF Program Director, Community Health, and lead researcher, Ms. Stack. The written report is being finalized for release to the community during September. This report will be provided to the City of Orlando and others for consideration in developing the Parramore Comprehensive Neighborhood Plan.