Enhancing Health through Built Environment Improvement: A Southern Nevada Health Impact Assessment Case Study


  • Maxim Gakh, JD, MPH University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Courtney Coughenour, PhD University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Emily Strickler, MPH University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Megan R. McDonough, MS, RD
  • Priyambda Kumra University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Jennifer R. Pharr, PhD University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Timothy Bungum, DrPH University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Nicole Bungum, MS, CHES Southern Nevada Health Distric
  • Mindy Meacham Southern Nevada Health District




Background: Health Impact Assessment (HIA) is a public health tool to evaluate how choices made outside the health sector can affect health. HIAs are utilized in transportation, housing, planning, and other fields. Since the built environment can impact community health outcomes, including physical activity rates, injuries, and overweight and obesity, an interdisciplinary team composed of public health, planning, transportation, and land use professionals conducted an HIA in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Methods: The HIA consisted of (1) screening, (2) scoping, (3) assessment, (4) recommendations, (5) reporting, and (6) monitoring and evaluation. It examined proposed physical improvements to a 0.66 mile stretch of a major arterial roadway in the City of Las Vegas where nearby residents experience many health inequities. Collection and analysis of land use and survey data, analysis of secondary data, and literature reviews were completed to predict potential health effects produced by built environment changes. Stakeholder feedback informed each HIA step.

Results: The HIA generated recommendations to improve physical activity, reduce pedestrian and bicyclist injury rates, and decrease obesity and overweight prevalence, by presenting “good,” “better,” and “best” physical infrastructure improvements. The process and resulting recommendations enhanced collaboration among health and nonhealth sectors.

Conclusions: Data and analysis revealed that the proposed changes could improve walkability and bikeability and reduce pedestrian and bicyclist injury. By encouraging active transportation through bicycling and walking, the plan could, over time, contribute to reduced overweight and obesity. The HIA facilitated inter-sector cross collaboration and the integration of health into future decision-making.