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Residents Invited to Healthy Communities Workshops to Share their Ideas about Making Santa Clara County a Healthier Place to Live

County of Santa Clara one of First Counties in Nation to Add Health Planning to General Plan

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF. – The County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors is launching the public process to create a new Health Element for its General Plan, beginning with three Healthy Communities Workshops on April 12, 26, 30, to seek ideas from the public.  Many factors determine the well-being of a community. Access to healthy foods, green space, the ability to get around with or without a car, affordable housing, and easy access to essential services all play a part. The County is considering how to make local communities healthier.  Residents are invited to share their ideas about making Santa Clara County a healthier place to live.

The Santa Clara County Department of Planning and Development and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department have joined forces to ensure that the new section of the General Plan will focus on promoting community health and wellness, and create a vision for a healthier future. The Health Element will provide an opportunity to address the many diverse aspects and policy issues related to public health and planning in Santa Clara County.

“The County of Santa Clara has recognized the critical and far-reaching importance of environmental and social conditions as factors that affect public health,” said President George Shirakawa, County of Santa Clara Board of Supervisors. “Adding a new Health Element to the County General Plan fits with our progressive efforts to address and improve the health of our residents.”

A General Plan documents a community’s shared vision of the future and sets goals, policies, and programs to achieve that vision. It describes how a community's physical, social and economic resources can and should be used and managed to address the vision. California law requires that each county and city in the State develop and adopt a General Plan, and update it periodically. The General Plan must contain the following seven state-mandated "elements": Land Use; Open Space; Conservation; Housing; Circulation; Noise; and Safety. Additionally, cities and counties can include “optional” elements on topics that are important to the jurisdiction.

The County is beginning its General Plan Update by first focusing on the Health Element. The process will offer a vision and goals for many of the other General Plan elements as they are updated in the future. The Health Element will promote a “health in all policies” approach, improved coordination among County agencies, departments, and other localities, and be a model for other jurisdictions in the county, state and nation.

“The County of Santa Clara has a well-known record of leading change in health policies for our community, such as menu labeling and most recently establishing some of the most comprehensive County nutrition guidelines in the state,” said Supervisor Liz Kniss, Chair of the Board’s Health and Hospital Committee. “Adding a health element to the County of Santa Clara General Plan integrates public health policy into the very foundation of our community.” 

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), healthy community design can improve people’s health by increasing physical activity, reducing injury, increasing access to healthy food, improving air and water quality, minimizing the effects of climate change, decreasing mental health stresses, strengthening the social fabric of a community, and providing fair access to livelihood, education, and resources. 

The County will examine the factors affecting the social and physical well-being of county residents and employees, including physical activity, nutrition, bicycle and pedestrian safety, air quality, healthy housing, preventive medical care, homelessness, crime, and many other factors. It will also evaluate the affects of pollution, climate change, and related phenomena on communities, as well as equity and social justice.

“Evidence shows that only a small portion of an individual’s health can be attributed to medical care or genes,” said Supervisor Ken Yeager, Vice Chair of the Board’s Health and Hospital Committee.  “Social determinants play a significant role in health status. This means that where we live, work, learn, and play are major factors in determining how healthy we are. Our health is fundamentally tied to the social, economic and institutional conditions in which we live.” 

 “When planning for healthy communities, it is important to look at the physical infrastructure and built environment, as well as the ‘social determinants of health,’” said Supervisor Dave Cortese, Chair of the Board’s Children, Seniors, and Families Committee. “One’s health status affects not only longevity, but also our quality of life during the aging process.”

According to the Health and Social Inequity in Santa Clara County Report, “social determinants of health” are factors beyond genetic make-up and access to medical care, including social status, education, housing and neighborhoods, access to nutritious foods, and employment and income. Currently, neighborhood income is often correlated with neighborhood quality and amenities that impact health (e.g., parks, public safety, healthy food access, good schools, pollution sources, etc.).

Participation from stakeholders, technical experts, and the public will be essential to the creation of the new General Plan Health Element. The Health Element aims to be innovative, inspiring, and implementable, and to embody the guiding principles of equity and sustainability.

The series of Healthy Communities Workshops is an opportunity for community members to share their ideas on health-related issues and help to create a vision for a healthy Santa Clara County. Health-related issues for discussion may include mental health, public safety, smoking, obesity, health care facilities, environmental quality, healthy housing, healthy foods, walking and bicycling, safe streets and parks and recreation. The workshops will be held:

Thursday, April 12, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Morgan Hill Community Center
(Hiram Morgan Hill Room)
17000 Monterey Rd, Morgan Hill, CA

Thursday, April 26, 6:00-8:30 p.m.
Quinlan Community Center (Cupertino Room)
10185 N. Stelling Rd, Cupertino, CA

Monday, April, 30, 6:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Sobrato Center for Non-Profits (Cupertino Rooms A and B)
1400 Parkmoor Ave, San Jose, CA

The workshops will be bilingual in English and Spanish. Vietnamese translation will be provided upon request.

The process to create the new Health Element will include the Healthy Communities Workshops, key stakeholder interviews, a Wellness Advisory Committee comprised of subject area experts and representatives, a countywide community health and wellness survey, and additional public meetings. The additional public meetings will include the Planning Commission, Housing, Land Use, Environment, & Transportation Committee of the Board of Supervisors (HLUET), Health and Hospital Committee of the Board of Supervisors, and the Board of Supervisors.  The 2 ½ year process will include the release of a Public Draft Health Element by approximately April, 2013.

The project is being funded partly through a Health Partnership Grant from the Health Trust and a CDC Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant through the County Public Health Department. 

For more information about the project, visit To request translation services at the Healthy Communities Workshops, contact or call (408) 658-8722.  
Healthy Communities Workshops Flier [Spanish PDF]


Media Contact: Gwendolyn Mitchell/Laurel Anderson, Office of Public Affairs, (408) 299-5119; Cherry Maurer, County Planning Office, (408) 299-5746
Posted: April 3, 2012