Health Element

The Health Element is a proposed new element of the General Plan that incorporates and updates certain subject matter and policies from the existing Health and Safety Chapters of the General Plan and provides a renewed emphasis on collaborative, comprehensive approaches to planning for community health.

What's New

Health Element - Adopted August 2015

The Board of Supervisors adopted the Health Element on August 25, 2015.

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The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors considered the proposed Health Element and related General Plan amendments at its May 5 and May 19, 2015 meetings, after the Planning Commission voted unanimously March 26, 2015 to forward a favorable recommendation to the Board of Supervisors to adopt the Final Draft Health Element.

At its May 19, 2015 meeting, the Board voted to continue the public hearing to a date uncertain and refer a small number of substantive policy revisions and additions to the Planning Commission, as required by law, for the Planning Commissions’ consideration and recommendation prior to final Board of Supervisors consideration and adoption. The Planning Commission voted to forward a favorable recommendation to adopt the policy revisions, with minor wording changes, at its June 25, 2015 meeting.

CEQA Documents


Public Comment Survey

Public Comments Received

For further inquiries: 

Project Manager: Leza Mikhail   (408)299-5773    

Santa Clara County Planning Office

7th - East Wing
County Government Center
70 W Hedding St

San Jose, CA 95110

To obtain demographic and health-related information at the city and neighborhood level in Santa Clara County, please visit the

Public Health Department's City and Neighborhood Profile


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Existing Conditions Report

The Existing Conditions Report describes existing issues and conditions pertaining to community health in Santa Clara County. The Report will help form the basis for subsequent policies and strategies in the County's Health Element of the General Plan.


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The 2012 Quality of Life Survey Report

The results of a comprehensive community assessment survey to identify participant challenges and assets. The Survey addressed economic conditions, health & wellness, safe neighborhoods and schools, transportation & mobility, quality of life, community participation, and demographics. Community members had the opportunity to make their voices heard through both an online (available in multiple languages) and telephone survey.

For more information on the Health Element project and process, please see below.


Quick Links


 What Is A General Plan And A General Plan "Element"?

 How Does Planning Impact Health?

 What Is The Health Element?

 SCC Health Element Planning Process

 Health Element Public Workshops

 Wellness Advisory Committee (WAC) Meetings

 Public Hearings

 Documents And Products

 Other Health Initiatives Already Happening In SCC

 Healthy Places Resources And Related Information




Santa Clara County is initiating an incremental update of its General Plan by creating a new chapter, or “element,” devoted to promoting health and wellness. The Health Element is a project of the County Planning Office, in conjunction with the County Public Health Department. The work is being funded primarily through the Health Trust (through a Health Partnership Grant) and the County Public Health Department (through a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “Communities Putting Prevention to Work” (CPPW) award). In addition, The Health Element project received technical assistance from the Greenbelt Alliance (through an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Building Block for Sustainable Protection Grant) to provide an educational video for local youth. The Health Element will address a number health and wellness topics affecting County residents and those with an interest in Santa Clara County. Stakeholder, technical and public involvement will be essential to the success of this project process and outcome, and County Planning and Public Health Department staff invites your participation.

In late 2011, the County’s Planning Office issued a Request for Proposals (see attachments below) on this web site and on Bidsync to solicit consultant services to assist with the Health Element project. Following a competitive bidding and selection process, the County Planning Office identified Raimi + Associates as the top candidate and issued a Notice of Intent to Award. The County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Raimi + Associates' on November 22, 2011, and project work began in December 2011.

Please continue to check this web site for ongoing project updates and events.

What Is A General Plan And A General Plan "Element"?

A General Plan documents a community’s shared vision for tomorrow 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 in the future. California law requires that each county and city in the State develop and adopt a General Plan. The General Plan must contain the following seven (7) state-mandated "elements": Land Use; Open Space; Conservation; Housing; Circulation; Noise; and Safety.

Additionally, cities and counties can include “optional” elements or topics that are important to the jurisdiction. As more cities and counties are acknowledging the impact that “place” has on public health, they are including health-supportive policies in the general plan, and/or creating a stand alone “health element” to address a holistic, broad range of community health issues. The County of Santa Clara is recognizing the critical and far reaching importance of health, by creating a new Health Element in its updated General Plan.

To learn more about general plans, please visit the website for California’s Office of Planning and Research. To learn about national trends in planning for healthy places, please read the American Planning Association’s report Comprehensive Planning for Public Health.

How Does Planning Impact Health?

The diagram and narrative below describes how planning can impact health.

Health Flow chart

The way we design, build, and program our communities can influence our physical and mental health behaviors and outcomes. Healthy community design integrates evidence-based health strategies into community planning, transportation, and land-use decisions, among others.

According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) healthy community design can improve people's health by:

While planning for healthy communities, it is important to look beyond the physical infrastructure since the “social determinants of health” are equally important to address. According to Health and Social Inequity in Santa Clara County, “social determinants of health” are factors beyond our genetic make-up and our access to medical care and can include social status, employment and income, education, housing and neighborhoods, and access to nutritious foods.

Policy and development decisions can impact the social determinants of health, so they must be considered in future planning efforts. 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.). The Santa Clara County Health Element seeks to reduce health disparities and inequities related to differences in neighborhood quality.

The Santa Clara County Health Element chart

What Is The Health Element?

If adopted, 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. In doing so, the Health Element will result in a comprehensive, consolidated, and well-integrated set of goals, strategies, and policies for improving public health. The process will examine the various 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 others. It will also evaluate the effects of pollution, climate change, and related phenomena on communities, as well as equity and social justice.

The Santa Clara County General Plan Health Element is the first Element to be initiated in the County's next round of General Plan Element Updates. If adopted, it will set a vision and framework for the entire County General Plan to consider and address public health and social equity. The County hopes that the Health Element will be a model for other jurisdictions in the County and beyond, and that it will inspire and promote coordination among County agencies, departments, and other localities.

The County seeks an inclusive Health Element that involves the County's many different constituencies, and their various concerns. As well as being inclusive, the Health Element aims to be innovative, inspiring, and implementable, and to embody the guiding principles of equity and sustainability.

SCC Health Element Planning Process

In initial meetings, the project team (comprised of Planning and Public Health Department staff) brainstormed key topics areas that the Health Element may address. These health topics include: Healthy Housing; Environmental Health; Health Care and Prevention; Healthy Food Access and Food Security; Land Use and Urban Design; Physical Activity and Recreation; Transportation and Mobility; and Social Well-Being and Social Cohesion. While the details or wording of these topics may evolve as the process moves forward, the entire Element will seek to embody the guiding principles of equity and sustainability.

The County expects to release a Public Draft of the Health Element in the Spring of 2013. To reach this goal, the following major tasks / milestones are anticipated:

  • Stakeholder interviews (up to 20) 
  • Staff Advisory Committee (SAC) Meetings (4) 
  • Wellness Advisory Committee (WAC) Meetings (4) 
  • Youth Video
  • Countywide Community Quality of Life Survey (electronic and telephone versions)
  • Community Health Element Workshops (4)
  • Public Outreach on potential Policies and Strategies
  • An Existing Conditions Report
  • Public Draft Health Element

How Can I Get Involved with the Process?

There are many ways community members, community, businesses, neighborhoods, schools, cities, and interest groups can participate in the process. Below are a few ways to get involved.

The 2012 Quality Of Life Survey

A broad coalition of nonprofit and public institutions (The County's Planning and Public Health Departments, Raimi + Associates, United Way Silicon Valley, San Jose State University's Survey and Policy Research Institute, and others) conducted a comprehensive community assessment to identify participant challenges and assets. The Survey team collaborated to develop, distribute, and analyze the Survey, which generated over 4000 responses. The Survey addressed the following topic areas: economic conditions, health & wellness, safe neighborhoods and schools, transportation & mobility, quality of life, and community participation, and demographics. Community members had the opportunity to make their voices heard through both an online (available in multiple languages) and telephone survey.

2012 Quality of Life Survey Report

Health Element Public Workshops / Outreach

Community Workshops and public outreach are critical components of the Health Element project. 

A first round workshop was completed in April and May, 2012. These meetings took place at four different locations throughout Santa Clara County:

  • Morgan Hill - April 12, 2012
  • Cupertino - April 26, 2012
  • San Jose - April 30, 2012
  • Palo Alto – May 8, 2012

The workshops involved a presentation and discussion of the Health Element's purpose and the connection between "place" and heath. Spanish and Vietnamese simultaneous translation and printed workshop materials were available at all the meetings. The workshops sought input from the community on the key health issues, assets, and opportunities in the County. A summary of the first round of workshops is included here. A second phase of community participation will take place in late 2012 or early 2013, when the policy framework is being conceived. 

Summary of Spring, 2012 Community Workshops

A County sponsored video, using local teens and settings, encourages local youth to make healthy choices and get involved in The Health Element process.

Prepared with the assistance of the Greenbelt Alliance, the video is being actively distributed to area youth centers, schools, and similar venues.

Wellness Advisory Committee (WAC) Meetings

More than thirty community leaders and subject area experts have participated on the project's Wellness Advisory Committee (WAC). The first meeting was held on Thursday, March 29, 2012 from 2:30 - 4:30 p.m. at the Sobrato Center for Non-Profits, Cupertino Room, 1400 Parkmoor Avenue, San Jose. Additional meetings will take place as the Health Element process proceeds.

WAC Agenda for March 29, 2012 (meeting #1)

WAC Minutes for March 29, 2012 (meeting #1)

Information on upcoming WAC meeting dates, times, and locations will be posted on this website as it becomes available.  The public is welcome to “sit-in” on the meetings. 

Public Hearings

Upcoming Hearings (to be determined)

Information on future public hearings (dates, times, and locations) will be posted on this website. Please check here for future meeting announcements and related information. 

Future County public hearings will be held by the following hearing entities:

  • The Planning Commission,
  • The Housing, Land Use, Environment & Transportation (HLUET) Committee of the Board of Supervisors,
  • The Health and Hospitals Committee of Board of Supervisors, and
  • The Board of Supervisors

Documents And Products

All key Health Element documents will be posted on this website, and we invite your review and feedback. We'll outline the process for commenting on the Health Element and related documents on this website, when the documents are available.

Other Health Initiatives Already Happening In Santa Clara County

Santa Clara County is already a national leader in creating healthy communities, through its innovative programs, policies, and initiatives. Learn more about how Santa Clara County is improving public health by reading the descriptions below.

Tobacco Prevention Policies

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department is interested in eliminating health disparities related to tobacco use and exposure. The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors passed a number of tobacco prevention ordinances that create healthier air environments in the unincorporated areas of the County. The County prohibits smoking in worksites, in multi-unit housing, or in public outdoor areas (i.e., parks, trails, dining areas, entryways, service areas, and outdoor worksites). Additionally the County is taking steps to reduce youth tobacco use through enforcement and prevention. Visit Quitting Tobacco and Tobacco-Free Communities for further details on these efforts. Additionally, the County’s Public Health Department is supporting the efforts of numerous cities in the County to develop and implement their own tobacco prevention policies though the Tobacco-Free Coalition.

SCC Public Health Studies

The resources below represent some of the excellent reports and studies recently produced by the County's Public Health Department on health-related topics of County interest. These and other existing documents will  be pivotal to the Health Element preparation work underway.

County Nutrition Standards

As a means of reducing the risk of developing obesity among County employees and residents, the County has set nutritional criteria for food and beverages served, sold, or purchased in County environments (such as on County-leased properties). These nutritional standards expand the County's 2005 Healthy Food and Beverage Vending Policy and the 2008 Healthy Beverage Policy (see the County's Nutrition Standards 2012 Implementation Guidelines). In addition, the County's Public Health Department supports the efforts of numerous County cities in developing and implementing their own healthy obesity prevention policies.

Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Working Group

This multi-disciplinary group promotes bicycle and pedestrian use and safety through public information, education, and public policy development. The ultimate goal of this group is to decrease bicycle and pedestrian fatalities and injuries, particularly among young children and families. The group currently coordinates the County's Safe Routes to School Program and participates in the International Walk and Bike to School Day.

Restaurant Healthy Meals Ordinance

In an effort to improve the nutritional content of children's meals at restaurants, the County Board of Supervisors passed this Ordinance. The law prohibits restaurants in unincorporated parts of the County from giving away toys unless the accompanying meals meet certain nutritional guidelines. (Note: Restaurants can still give away toys with healthy meals). Santa Clara County is the first jurisdiction to pass this type of law in the country. Other jurisdictions have since followed suit.

Health Advisory Commission (HAC) 

The general purpose of this Commission is to advise and report to the Board of Supervisors and other government agencies or officials regarding issues that impact the public health (excluding business planning or decisions, collective bargaining activities, or contracts entered into by the Health and Hospital System). The Commission has three standing committees: acute and chronic diseases and related issues; emergency medical services; and maternal, child and adolescent health issues. You can view agendas and minutes for the Health Advisory Commission on the County’s main website.

Healthy Places Resources And Related Information

Please consult this site in the near future for a listing of links to organizations, tools, research, and data relevant to planning healthy communities.

Research, Reports, and Fact Sheets

Equitable Development Toolkit (PolicyLink)

Changelab Solutions (formerly Public Health Law and Policy)

Society of Health Impact Assessments

American Public Health Association’s Transportation and Health Toolkit

NACCHO – National Association of City and County Health Officers

Planning for Better Health Greenbelt Alliance Factsheet

How to Create and Implement Healthy General Plans

Healthy Planning Policies: A Compendium of California General Plans

Creating Healthy Regional Transportation Plans

Strengthening Communities – The Prevention Institute

A Citizen’s Guide to LEED for Neighborhood Development – NRDC

Data and Tools

Santa Clara County Public Health Department Reports

US Census Data for Santa Clara County

Healthy City (data, maps, info)

California Nutrition Network GIS Mapper

USDA Food Environment Atlas

UC Berkeley TIMS (traffic collisions data / maps)

CHIS - California Health Interview Survey (health data by county)

CDC – BRFSS Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System

Kid’s Data

Housing and Transportation Affordability Index

San Francisco’s Healthy Development Measurement Tool




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