'Growing for Kane' Health Impact Assessment Held Up as Model For Nation

‘Growing for Kane’ Health Impact Assessment Held Up as Model For Nation

Kane County’s “Growing For Kane” Health Impact Assessment is being held up as a model for health planning nationwide.

A recently released American Planning Association report on the effectiveness of Health Impact Assessments applauds Kane County for plans that delivered meaningful results — from preserving farmland to increasing food production to coordinating a multi-department initiative to become the healthiest county in Illinois by 2030.

APA Report Cover“This kind of recognition is something the community at large rarely knows about, but it represents more than a decade of smart planning and hard work that has — without question — made Kane County a better place to live and work,” said Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen.

The Health Impact Project, a collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts, is a national initiative designed to promote the use of HIAs as a decision-making tool for policymakers. Kane County Development Director Mark VanKerkhoff said the APA’s Planning and Community Health Center looked at 134 HIA’s completed across the country and chose Kane County as an example of what county government can do.

Co-led by Executive Planner Janice Hill, who is responsible for the farmland preservation program, and Jackie Forbes, former health planner and now transportation planner for Kane County, the HIA analyzes how local government policy could improve access to healthy, affordable food and offers recommendations for protecting and promoting public health through the amendment.

The team included consultants, the Kane County Farm Bureau, American Farmland Trust and a multidisciplinary team from Kane County.

Kane County’s Health Impact Assessment was completed in 2013. The featured studies were chosen on the basis of their unique attributes, including planning topic, decision level and geographic location.

APA’s report recognized three areas where the Growing for Kane HIA demonstrates value added to planning practice. Kane County’s HIA:

  • Strengthened existing collaborative networks.
  • Revealed strategies to engage decision makers in supporting a new policy/program.
  • Sparked innovation to advance healthier public policies.

The State of Health Impact Assessment in Planning is available for download through APA’s Planning and Community Health Center website. Kane County’s Health Impact Assessment is available here.

APA’s Planning and Community Health Center is leading a project to further the education, training, and development of Health Impact Assessments as an integral part of planning practice.

With support from the Health Impact Project, this project provides background and guidance on integrating HIA into plans and policies that shape the built environment.



Kane County, Illinois, a large county that borders Chicago and its suburbs, has a mix of urban and rural environments within its borders. In the years leading up to 2001, growth trends and population growth amplified development pressure on the county’s rural areas.

Growing_for_Kane_logoRecognizing the need to permanently protect its rich farmland, in 2001 Kane County became the first county in Illinois to adopt a farmland protection ordinance, the Kane County Agricultural Conservation and Easement Farmland Protection Program. With financial support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and local sources, Kane County has actively preserved farmland using purchase of development rights, fee-simple purchases, and a donated easement program. As of April 2016, there were 30 participating farms.

In 2011, the county considered revising the ordinance in light of the past decade of continued development pressure and the 2008 recession. As of the 2007 Agricultural Census, Kane County had 192,372 acres of farmland, and only 1,180 acres in vegetable production.

The proposed amendment was designed to appeal to smaller farms that produce fruits, vegetables, and meats and typically sell locally in the program. This would thereby increase total Kane County acres dedicated to food production, diversify food crop acres, and increase access to fresh produce locally.

The timing of this proposed amendment coincided with a countywide “Quality of Kane” initiative to become the healthiest county in Illinois by 2030. This presented an opportune time to conduct an HIA on how a new or amended ordinance could best improve the health of Kane County residents. The Kane County Development and Community Services Department, in collaboration with the Kane County Health Department, obtained a $125,000 grant from the Health Impact Project to conduct a comprehensive HIA.