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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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Health Department Comments

Climate Action Plan Equity Workgroup - July 23, 2013

The Health Department recently created a series of maps in a document called the Built Environment Atlas, which is intended to help demonstrate which areas are high in health-promoting resources and which areas are low. These resources include access to farmers markets, grocery stores, and parks. The intent was to help shape policy so that we can increase access to these resources so that folks have access to healthy foods and parks and safe streets to walk, play, and bike so we decrease obesity and diabetes. You can find the atlas here:

Food and Agriculture:

Page 36 shows the "Retail Food Environment Index,"  (RFEI) which is ratio of unhealthy food outlets to healthy food outlets. The measure calculates the # of convenience and fast food restaurants divided by the # of grocery stores, produce vendors and farmers markets. This measure or score is a great way to highlight which neighborhoods could be key focus areas to host farmer's markets or community gardens, and improve health outcomes in those areas as well. 

We also track Food and Vegetable vouchers that are used by Women, Infant and Children clients (who are often families in poverty) at farmer's markets. We could map out the clients potentially so we could see what areas are lacking in farmer's markets and then conduct an educational campaign promoting farmer's markets, especially because some local businesses will match $5 in EBT at farmer's markets, giving clients another $5 for fresh local food. This helps meet the Climate Action Plan goal af proving programmatic resources to increase consumption of home grown and locally produced foods.

The Health Department could provide a RFEI every few years to track our progress of improving access to local, healthy foods; and we can also improve educational opportunities to clients we serve, who are often vulnerable and living in areas without access to these resources.


Urban Forestry, Parks and Tree Canopy

The Built Environment Atlas also shows Access to Trails and Parks and Tree Canopy coverage for MultnomahCounty. When we combine this data with the urban heat island data (available at this link:  and then overlay a sample of 350 asthma cases in 2004, we find that the areas that get the hottest, also have the least tree canopy which also have the most asthma cases. Those include the Northwest industrial district, the airport and surrounding Columbia Corridor, along freeways and busy arterials such as 82nd Avenue, Sandy Boulevard, Foster Road and Killingsworth Street.

Much like the food and agriculture data, we can use this data to help inform where we need to plant trees and incorporate large swaths of greenspace to cool these areas down, and improve the air quality for those than need to breathe easier – another example of an action that has a co-benefit.  The Health Department can help shape policy by providing this data so we can prioritize resources and funding; and help educate our clients on the benefits of exercise and accessing these resources.