Why are some communities healthier than others? Communities across the North are facing challenges from increases in the rates of chronic diseases; most of these diseases are preventable. Increasing childhood asthma, for instance, is attributed to poor air quality from vehicle emissions and industrial activity. Diabetes and cardiac disease are related to obesity and lack of physical inactivity. Even more basic, the lack of safe, affordable housing severely impacts health. All of these health effects arise in part from our interaction with the built environment - the buildings, parks, schools, road systems and other infrastructure that we encounter in our daily lives.
Research from around the world now shows that we can improve health and reduce illness through different approaches to planning our communities. The way we choose to develop highways, shape land use policies, and ensure access to nutritious food are just a few examples of community planning decisions that can help or hinder health goals.
A healthy built environment is the foundation to healthy living. Our programs work to promote health by collaborating with Municipal Planners, community groups and other stakeholders to promote positive change in the environment, as well as empowering individuals to strengthen their skills to take control over their health and environment. In particular, Environmental Health is expanding their traditional roles to include broader public health issues that include:
- The environment, including indoor and outdoor air quality and buying “green” consumer products
- Local food security
- Land use decisions that affect housing and social wellness
- Physical activity and obesity, which is affected by transportation and recreation choices
- Healthy transportation alternatives
- Injury prevention
- Supporting the development of livable, disability-friendly, age-friendly, universally designed and inclusive communities
For more information on creating a Healthy Community Environment, please contact your local Environmental Health Officer