American Lung Association in California Releases New Report on Sustainable Growth for Healthier Neighborhoods in the San Joaquin Valley

American Lung Association in California Releases "Public Health Crossroads"

(March 18, 2014)

The American Lung Association in California released the Public Health Crossroads reports for three Valley counties - San Joaquin, Fresno, and Kern Counties today, demonstrating that the right planning decisions could save residents in these counties $269 million annually in health costs by 2035. Throughout the San Joaquin Valley, healthy growth patterns could save residents at least $416 million.

The Public Health Crossroads reports offer fresh data on public health benefits that smarter, more compact and walkable development would bring to the San Joaquin Valley, whose residents live with some of the worst air pollution problems in the country. The reports quantify the benefits that residents in San Joaquin, Fresno and Kern could experience if leaders plan for communities that are more walkable and interconnected with existing neighborhoods and commercial centers. Potential savings in health costs adds up to $139 million in Kern County, $83 million in Fresno County and $47 million in San Joaquin County. The report also projects reductions in pollution-related outcomes for asthma attacks and other respiratory health impacts and lost work days. 

Under California’s Sustainable Communities Act (SB 375), Valley counties are making new blueprints for growth planning over the next two decades, called Sustainable Communities Strategies, that will steer traffic and pollution trends that impact health. The American Lung Association in California calls on local leaders to make health improvement a key priority in this process by moving away from business-as-usual planning and toward a healthier vision that will save money and lives. 

Among other recommendations, the American Lung Association in California urges elected leaders in the three counties to:

  • Adopt a strong Sustainable Communities Strategy that moves beyond "business-as-usual" planning of the past.
  • Prioritize growth and transportation investments to serve existing downtowns and community cores, rather than fringe areas or new towns that encroach on critical natural and agricultural resources.
  • Promote infill, transit oriented development and access to transit, Bus Rapit Transit and other innovative cleaner air transportation options for people of all incomes.
  • Focus investments to "fix it first" maintenance rather than new roads.
  • Front-load investments that enhance walking, biking and transit options.
  • Invest in planning models such as UrbanFootprint that can estimate health impacts and benefits of future planning scenarios.

The Public Health Crossroads reports are part of an ongoing series of reports by the American Lung Association in California that document the health benefits of stronger air quality and climate policies. The estimates of health incidents and costs in these reports are likely to be conservative because they are based on reductions in traffic pollution alone, and don’t take into account the fuller range of health benefits from smarter growth patterns that promote more physical activity.

To read the reports and learn more about Smart Growth, click here.

For further information, contact:

Bonnie Holmes-Gen
Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy

Will Barrett
Policy Manager

Heather Dumais
Air Quality Advocacy Coordinator