Making the connection between zoning and health disparities

Lauren M. Rossen, Keshia M. Pollack

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


A top priority of the federal government's Healthy People initiative is to address inequalities and injustices, and to eliminate disparities by race and ethnicity, education, income, and geographic location. Unfortunately, progress toward this goal has been minimal, and low-income and some racial and ethnic minority groups remain more likely to suffer from a variety of diseases and health risks. Inequalities in the built and social environments underlie many of the socioeconomic and racial and ethnic disparities in health risks and outcomes. Zoning is the primary tool used in the U.S. to control land use; zoning plays a predominant role in creating and maintaining built environments. The reliance on outdated zoning codes has helped contribute to various environmental injustices and inequalities. Zoning policies have been suggested as one potentially useful tool to make communities more conducive to health, and to more equitably distribute opportunities and risks to health. Effective zoning policy has the potential to not only address the issues of dietary intake, physical activity, and related chronic diseases, but also to ameliorate several other public health problems such as exposure to environmental hazards, intentional and unintentional injury, substance use and abuse, access to health care and health disparities. This article reviews the role of zoning as a determinant of various public health problems such as chronic diseases and health disparities, and as a policy tool to address these public health issues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-127
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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