Author

Zoe Miller

Date of Award

2017

Document Type

Capstone

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Elise Bolda, MPH

Keywords

public health, Regional Planning Council, land use, strategic planning, Portland, Maine, Muskie School of Public Service

Abstract

This Capstone project was designed to provide technical expertise to Greater Portland Council of Governments (GPCOG) for their 2017 strategic planning process. GPCOG is the Regional Planning Council (RPC) for Cumberland County, Maine. Also known as Councils of Government (COGs) and simply Regional Councils – these municipal and regional planning organizations were established in the U.S. in the 1960s. They are multi-service entities with state-defined boundaries that deliver a variety of federal, state, and local program supports. They provide planning and technical assistance to their member municipal governments. RPCs are accountable to their members and are partners with the state and federal governments.

RPCs usually work closely with the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) and other planning groups. This is the case with GPCOG and the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation System (PACTS) which are legally separate organizations, but are co-located, sharing office space and staff.

GPCOG is currently working with its member municipalities and stakeholders to examine its identity and refine its role in the region. Executive Director Kristina Egan sees the strategic planning process as an ideal time to present the opportunity for integrating public health into the agency’s transportation and land use planning. GPCOG’s member towns and cities are looking for data-driven strategies and are open to new approaches. GPCOG’s leadership wants to ensure the organization has access to the resources and tools of the public health sector. In short, GPCOG wants to be ready with answers when towns ask “how do we incorporate public health?” This project explores how communities in the U.S. are integrating public health practices into planning. Specifically, it examines efforts to integrate public health into planning within RPCs.

The project identifies tools and approaches that leading RPCs are using to successfully integrate public health into planning in their regions, in response to two questions posed by GPCOG:

1. What are the promising practices for embedding public health in the community planning and development efforts of regional planning councils?

2. How can this be done in a way that is financially sustainable?

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