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Improve the Built Environment in Your Community: Questions, Responses and Helpful Links from our online discussion

onlinediscussionfeb13If you are working to improve the built environment in your community, there’s a good chance you participated in our online discussion with consultant on tap, Paul Young, this past Monday. With a steady flow of well-thought out questions from participants, informative responses, and lots of peer sharing among the 100 attendees – it was a great learning opportunity!

To further that learning and to allow those who couldn’t join an opportunity to gain insights and connect to helpful information and resources, we are sharing the questions that were asked, responses from Paul and participants, as well as helpful links and resources shared for each question with you all! Feel free to scroll to questions that appeal to you, and don’t forget to check out additional resource links at the bottom of the blog! If you have any remaining questions, or want clarification on the information provided, you can email Kyley atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

1)During the Healthy Communities Partnership Project we worked with some of the municipalities to strengthen wording or add wording for Active Transportation and Built Environment in MOPs – now they have been done and it will be another 5 years until they start reviewing them again. What do we do in the meantime? Do we keep reviewing MOPs and see how they can be strengthened, what if the municipality doesn’t want to see us for a while? Are there other municipal documents that public health can have input into?

  •            A lot of interest from public health units in getting involved in planning

  •          The Official Plan was a big hit – enabled a high level approach to including things related to the built environment that affect health

  •         Official Plan updates are typically every 5 years, but there are other mechanisms to provide input on planning matters, such as:

    - Working on Recreation policy - access, Rec master plans, coordinating with the transportation plan (trails, for example, cross over between recreation and transportation).

    - Secondary plans (for high growth areas) – you can look at how well this plan supports walkability. Can look at age friendliness, cycling supports, food access, density, mixed use, complete streets, etc.

    - Working with schools - access to recreation, healthy food, active travel

    - Other built environment projects, like Environmental Assessments – that can shape road design

    - Can get involved in Transportation Policy (master plans) – such as paved shoulders, etc.

  • Public Health and Land Use Planning document by OPHA – has as a spectrum of great ideas that other public health units are doing on built environment: http://www.opha.on.ca/OPHA/media/Resources/Resource%20Documents/CAP_PHLUP-Report-Apr2011_1.pdf?ext=.pdf

2)What are some of the best strategies to engage Councillors or Mayors in AT planning/development - especially those Councillors/Mayors that have been huge barriers to AT.

  • It can be difficult to start with people who are not on board...try to engage a Champion amongst council and have that person serve as spokesperson

  • Fairly common way to engage a councillor would be on an active transportation committee – they can lead and be spokesperson OR have councillors sign a Walking or Active Transportation Charter, which is a public declaration of support

  • Experience in Thunderbay – Public Health organized a bus tour of dangerous intersections with councillors, municipal staff and community. We also went to places that were very supportive of active transportation, so they could see the difference – easy opportunity for a councillor to be involved

  • Health is usually an issue that council will respond to – preventing crashes and fatalities

  • Economic development is another- municipalities interested in attracting and retaining populations (i.e. age friendly communities with retirement)

  • quality of life as well – usually councils will have a strategic plan, and quality of life is usually a part of this

  • active transportation is a great way to frame and address all three of these

3) How do you sell Built Environment ideas (new trail, park, etc.) to councillors who are budget conscious? Do you have a good evidence-based resource?

  • Municipalities often conduct Recreation Needs Assessments e.g., surveys to find out what residents prefer – walking comes up usually as #1 – one reason to invest in trails

  • Walking is the easiest and least costly physical activity and so trails (walking and biking) can be a great way to support the needs of a councillors constituents

  • Economic development - having trails and access to recreation is a great way to attract and retain populations in their community

  • World Health Organization has age-friendly guidelines: Walkable communities are featured prominently http://www.who.int/ageing/publications/Global_age_friendly_cities_Guide_English.pdf?ua=1

 

4) Is there a business case document that shows the return on investment for built environment (reduction of health care costs due to injury/increase in physical activity)?

  • There are resources around the economic impact of building trails from a tourism standpoint. The Waterfront Trail has resources on this: Contact Marlaine Koehler at the Waterfront Regeneration Trust. See also Ontario By Bike

  • Rails to Trails Conservancy – search in their library : http://www.railstotrails.org/

  • Economic investment in trails is pretty clear

  • Challenge - Health care costs aren’t born by municipality but most active transportation infrastructure work is undertaken by municipalities (so municipality spends and province saves) – although we are starting to connect those dots more

Participants shared:

  • Niagara developed an economic value of AT fact sheets that include one about health care. Halton replicated it:

  • City of Toronto's road safety plan targets areas with high collision and injury incidence. Used mapping to help identify areas.

  • See also Parachute Canada’s Cost of Injuries (including transport injuries)

 

5) Do you know of any community (rural or urban) that is using injury statistics as part of their infrastructure planning for roads/cycle lanes/sidewalks?

  • Thunder Bay - GIS maps of injuries/fatalities to ID problem areas (they then took councillors and stakeholders on a tour of these locations) – raise awareness among decision makers to make those places safer

  • Hamilton Walking Strategy - looks at crash data as well

  • Port Hope - looked at problem street crossings

  • Most Transportation Dep'ts are aware of where crashes are occurring and could contact them for info or ask if this data is being collected

Participant shared:

  • The Saskatoon Health Region did a report on unintentional injuries and looked at emergency room and discharge data. Transportation injuries were included and we have shared this with the municipality (they were interested as it accessed data sources that they normally do not refer to/have access to). We use the data and the recommendations from the Chief Medical Health Officer to guide our advocacy and work with the community. This is the link to the infographics and one-page summaries: http://www.communityview.ca/infographic_shr_injury.html

 

6) Do you know of any really great strategies/policies to encourage walking in small rural communities?

  • HKPR health unit - Communities in Action Haliburton (www.communitiesinaction.ca) – you can see the great work they have been doing for some examples.

  • Getting councillors to sign a Charter – so you know there is political support

  • Lots of interest in walking in rural areas but distances are quite long… not as likely to be utilitarian walking as recreational walking.

  • Great opportunities for trails on abandoned rail lines or adjacent to active rail lines, hydro corridors, river corridors, waterfronts.

  • Trails are a great strategy to connect settlement areas.

  • When there are no trails, then rural solutions along road ways like paved shoulders

  • Encourage purposeful trails that connect to practical destinations – Georgian Trail near Collingwood connects to everyday destinations like shopping – trail connects to backside of parking lot of Meaford grocery store. Makes it more part of active transportation network.

 Participant shared:

  • In Northern Ontario (Kapuskasing, Cochrane, Iroquois Falls) all have a walking map highlighting sidewalk routes which are distributed to various locations.

7) In rural communities transportation is often split between two tiers of government (Upper and Lower Tiers), with sidewalks and trails falling to the Lower government (at least this is the way it is in Peterborough County). Do you know of any upper tier ATMPs that include supportive policies/strategies for walkability?

  • Then you get down to details of how to separate the cyclists from pedestrians, which are usually covered in the master plan as well.

  • A lot of work going on in schools – unfolding at regional and municipal level

Participants shared:


8) Can anyone recommend any tools/checklists that planners can integrate into their planning process/application reviews in order to support health outcomes in approvals?

  • Peel Region - Healthy Development Index: http://www.peelregion.ca/health/urban/pdf/HDI-report.pdf

  • Checklists can be challenging to incorporate into the intricacies/nuances of planner's work

    • We can say we have a facility for cycling for example (and check the box), but it needs to be matched to the context – so if it’s a busy road way, you need a separated cycling facility and not just a bike lane.

  • City of Toronto has developed some tools as well. Example the Active City Reports

  • Most municipalities have a sustainable development or urban design checklist that incorporates sustainability – looking for things like bicycle parking, street trees, open space… (all tailored towards individual municipality)

  • This site provides a number of checklists: http://wcel.org/checklists

Particpants shared:

 

9) With respect to public spaces, aside from the requirements in the PPS, is there any research that shows how much park/green space you need in a built area (i.e., subdivision) so that this space contributes to increased physical activity and health?


10) Please share information on community health promotion initiatives that incorporate elements of Built Environment into their programming, e.g. walking groups, ‘yoga in the park’, etc., and incorporate advocacy for healthier Built Environments as part of their community development efforts.

  • Advocacy: many health units are promoting multi-stakeholder engagement processes and focusing on relationship-building and collaboration between sectors/dep'ts and in the community (health, planning, etc.) (E.g. planning, transportation, economic development, health).

  • Most departments are looking for improvements on the built environment – this is consistent with health objectives – less car dependence, compete streets, etc.

  • Niagara Region Health Unit is promoting/supporting AT committees in each municipality

  • Ultimate objective – form a Committee of council – made up of local representatives (counsellor, technical advisory people on staff, volunteers from community) – will advocate for AT-supportive planning and design

  • Policy work on a broader level – OPHA has done great work there

 

11)I am on an Accommodation Review Committee, that is going to make recommendations to the school board regarding the transition from an elementary school and high school and combining the two schools. I would very much look to gain input an insight in to some of the ways that the built environment, inside and out can help to improve health for the school and the community. One of the daycares in my community has recently done a lot of work to take out play equipment, and go with more natural setting with wood and trees. I look forward to any suggestions that you might have in to providing input in to creating a new school play yard and indoor school space.

  • Dufferin Grove - was slated to come up with a new play equipment but they looked at adding more natural alternatives (sand pit, water hoses, gardens, etc)

  • If amalgamation of schools – one thing to consider is there might be a loss of green space

  • In terms of school siting, there are advantages to siting it where most people live (rather than outskirts of town) and enabling shorter walking distances and limiting bussing needs

  • Hamilton has done some work on school siting to support AT

  • Regarding inside the school – healthy food, standing up desks, etc.

  • Naturalizing playgrounds are popular – Look at Evergreen Canada - Learning Grounds Program– they have funding and resources available on school yard greening: https://www.evergreen.ca/

  • Richard Louv's book “Last Child in the Woods” – talks about nature deficit disorder and importance of access to nature and play

 12) Have you or any others done work regarding improving health equity in/through the built environment? If so, any lessons to share?

  • People with low income rely more on active transportation and transit – ensuring these are located in close proximity to where people need it

  • Recreation fees

  • Access to food

  • Proximity to noise, unsafe areas, pollution, etc. – where you live affects your health. Some people are living with more health stressors because that is where affordable housing is – these are some things to consider.

 

Additional Resources

Paul Young’s resource listing to promote active transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/Resources_for_promoting_active_transportation_Paul_Young_2017.pdf

HC Link resource page on the Built Environment: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/resources/resources/built-environment.html

HC Link’s Digest PLUS on Community Transportation: http://www.hclinkontario.ca/images/2017/HCLinkNewsDigestPLUS1FEB2017_CommunityTransportation.pdf

 

 

 

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