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Planning for Healthy and Resilient Communities

Planning for community health focuses on how the built and natural environments influence community health and health behaviors. The built and natural environments are foundational determinants of health. The design of the built environment and the conservation of the natural environment affect the provision of the basic elements of life (water, food, air) as well as higher order needs (mental health, physical activity) and social outcomes such as social capital and social justice.

Resilience scholarship contributes a framework for examining how complex and dynamic social-ecological systems respond to perturbations and crises. This framework provides insights into how communities can adapt to changing internal and external conditions, transform from undesirable system states to more desirable ones, and engage in processes that promote social learning in the face of uncertainty.

In DURP, research to date has brought together community health and resilience in the face of social and ecological disturbances such as wildland fire, climate change, sea-level rise, degraded natural landscapes, and the impacts on global networks affected by these and other challenges. Currently, faculty are exploring

  • how coastal communities can engage in adaptation planning in the face of climate change to address hazards and health impacts,
  • how developing community based food systems can enhance the resilience and health of cities,
  • ways that communities can engage in social learning to enhance their capacities to address wildland fire management,
  • how the natural landscape and green infrastructure support ecosystem services and health, and
  • what barriers and opportunities exist in seeking to establish more resilient systems in the face of dynamic global change.

Faculty with Research Interests in Healthy and Resilient Communities

Will Butler
Chris Coutts
Tisha Holmes

Doctoral Student Researchers with Interests in Healthy and Resilient Communities

Recent doctoral graduates

Crystal Taylor
Taylor, C. & Coutts, C. (in press). Greenways as safe routes to school in a Latino community in East Los Angeles. Cities & Health.

Doctoral students

Blair Burley
Zechariah Lange
Anthony Milordis
Shaleen Miller
Patrice Williams

Current Research Projects

Regional Planning for Climate Change Adaptation

Co-PIs: Tisha Holmes and William Butler

Many climate change adaptation strategies for sea level rise and coastal hazards involve changes to land use planning policies and investments in capital improvements projects. Municipalities face numerous barriers for planning and implementing climate change adaptation projects. This project examines multiple different regional governance approaches to climate change adaptation in coastal areas in Florida to determine what strategies at the regional scale can help overcome barriers to adaptation planning at the local scale.

Health and climate change adaptation planning

Co-PIs: Tisha Holmes, Chris Uejio (Geography)

Climate change will have multiple and significant impacts on human health and public health departments are working to build capacity to respond to these threats. This project supports the administration of the Building Resilience Against Climate Effects (BRACE) Program in Florida. Florida BRACE provides technical assistance and resources to county health departments for planning, implementation and evaluation of interventions which reduce the public health risks associated with a changing climate. This work is funded by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention


Co-Management of Fire Risk Transmission

PI: William Butler

Students: Shanice Jones, Nick Stampar

Funding: US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station

Communities, agencies and organizations that seek to reduce wildland fire risk face increasing challenges as fire risk cannot be contained by jurisdictional or ownership boundaries and the intensity and magnitude of wildfire has been increasing for the past several decades. This research project which is a multi-university and multi-agency project seeks to assess the risks of wildland fire and its cross-boundary transmission, how those risks can be more effectively addressed, and what effective co-management strategies could be put into place in communities where the risk of wildland fire is high.

Supporting the Critical Role of Nature in the Sustainable Development of Malawi

PI: Chris Coutts

The research involves community members in Karonga, Malawi photographing the lands and natural elements around their villages that they perceive as affecting the provision of ecosystem services essential to their health and livelihood. Examples of these services are likely to include air, water, food, fiber, medicine, and woody products for construction and cooking fuel, but the Photovoice exercise is also designed to reveal other physical, mental, and potentially emotional and spiritual services not currently accounted for in the scientific literature. This work is funded by the US Fulbright Scholar grant

Building Community Disaster Resilience to Weather Hazards

PI: Tisha Holmes

This project examines the impacts, coping strategies and recovery responses to extreme weather events in the Turtle Region of Trinidad & Tobago. The project examines the socio-ecological exposures, community perspectives on the risks faced, institutional responses to reduce risk and opportunities to develop regional disaster response networks to build community resilience.

Completed project reports and other publications are listed on individual faculty webpages and in faculty CVs available on their webpages.