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Healthy communities

Why are some communities healthier places to live? Is it that the members of the community are contributing to an environment that promotes health?  Or does the infrastructure of the community   lead to healthier people? How much depends on factors such as income, type of job, education levels or other determinants of health? The answer might include all of the above.

Healthy communities create an environment that makes it easier to adopt healthy lifestyles, through factors like:

  • good access to physical activity
  • availability and affordability of healthy food choices
  • smoke-free settings
  • available affordable housing
  • diversity of job opportunities
  • access to educational opportunities

Another factor that may contribute to a healthier community is a strong social network of neighbours who support each other. An example is in the Augustana neighbourhood in Camrose, Alberta, where neighbours have united together to plan events for the year that help them stay connected, including the Spring Neighbourhood Litter Clean-up, the Canada Day Neighbourhood Potluck, and the Summer Games & Picnic. As well, residents support each other with timely snow removal in the winter through the Snow Friends Project.

Community partnerships are also a critical part of building healthy communities by facilitating wellness opportunities like support for new parents, development of safe, affordable housing alternatives, or walking paths.  And when communities themselves help shape a local solution, and are given the opportunity to talk about what matters most to them, they are more committed to their success. Some communities might be most concerned about homelessness; some about addictions and mental health. And others might be concerned about the walkability of their community, like a group of committed citizens in Camrose who formed  the Walkable Camrose Committee. The Committee looks at ways to enhance the walkability of their community, with a focus on safety, accessibility and creating a culture of walking.  Many sectors participate -- health, education, business, social services, municipal government, service organizations, neighbourhood associations and volunteers. In 2015, they flagged concerns about a barrier to safely crossing a major thoroughfare in the centre of the community and consulted with City Police, City Council and City department heads to advocate for a safer pedestrian crossing. This resulted in the City’s decision to purchase and install a signalized pedestrian crossing in that location to make it safer.

To address unique needs like the Walkable Camrose Committee, active partners across multiple sectors and disciplines is paramount. Initiatives that address determinants of health and decrease health inequities have a direct impact on the health of the community.  Building the right community partnerships and strategies now will support a healthy community for our future.

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