Opioids and the Built Environment: A Study of Mason City's Built Environment

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Pflanz, Aspen
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Ted Grevstad-Nordbrock
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Community and Regional Planning

Community and regional planning is a professional field of study aimed at assessing the ever-changing socioeconomic and physical environments of our communities and planning for their future. Planners evaluate and seize opportunities to understand and solve problems. Most planners work at the local level, but they are concerned with issues that affect the world: the preservation and enhancement of the quality of life in a community, the protection of the environment, the promotion of equitable economic opportunity; and the management of growth and change of all kinds.

The Department of Community and Regional Planning was established in 1978 when it was split from the Department of Landscape Architecture and Community Planning.

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In this research, the characteristics of the built environment are explored as they relate to one’s experience with opioid misuse. Opioids have become increasingly deadly in the United States, and the solution to curb overdose deaths should not only be framed from the medical or policy sides of the issue. Rather, the professional shapers of and responders to the built environment have a responsibility too. Hence, the following research questions are posed in this paper: 1. What is the relationship between the built environment and the opioid epidemic? and 2. How can planners respond to the opioid epidemic in their communities? The first research question is answered through the review of existing academic literature about the topic. The second research question is answered through the qualitative analysis of one census block group in Mason City, IA’s North End Neighborhood. Findings include that although planners cannot solve the misuse of opioids in their communities, they do have multiple options to mitigate it. Tracking the presence of opioids, ensuring that public health considerations are integrated into planning decisions, and acknowledging their responsibility in reducing the harm associated with opioid misuse is an advisable starting point for planners.

Wed Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2020