Editor’s Note: Happy City is rolling out new working groups that will focus on the key action areas we keep hearing about here in St. John’s. More and more often you’ll be hearing perspectives from these groups on our blog and social media feeds. Along with Healthy Cities, our other working group areas are Economy, Finances and Affordability, Community and Cultural Life, Built Environment, Transportation, Democratic Processes, and Winter City. Want to get involved in one? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
Now over to two members of our Healthy Cities working group!
Our Healthy Avalon
Nate Taylor and Bruce Knox
The design of our community determines our health. The Northeast Avalon region suffers from high rates of preventable disease and our built environment plays an often-underappreciated role. Our cities, neighbourhoods, roads, and trails influence our activity and our health.
Growing up we had little influence on the design of our communities. Our parents chose our house and our community – based on their incomes of course. We had no influence on the number of parks, sidewalks, or trails within our respective neighbourhoods or communities.
At a recent Healthy Cities working group meeting, it was noted that many of us carry forward that sense of disconnect between how we live, and how we want to live. There remains a sense that we do not have influence over the design of our urban environment. We have become taller versions of our 11-year-old selves, and though we hung up our ‘pants-that-zip-into-shorts’ a long time ago, not all of us feel like our neighbourhoods are designed the way we want them to be (To be fair, Bruce noted “Some of us still have those pants.”). The deliberations of policy-makers, planners, and developers seem distant from our everyday commutes to school, work, and play. Shouldn’t we all have a say in the design of our respective communities?
With a better-designed future in mind, 15 communities have come together to work toward a regional plan for the Northeast Avalon. As CBC News reports:
“The plan will focus on seven themes: municipal services, transportation, environment, governance, economy, development and collaboration.”1
We at Happy City believe these to be key issues to consider in the design of our future. That being said, neighbourhood design matters for health, and health is a provincial and regional priority that can pay long-term dividends. Let’s bring health into the conversation. Moreover, if YOU have ideas there are many ways you can make them heard!
Start the conversation with us @happycitySJ. Tweet us a photo and show us what #healthycities means to you! If you have an 11 year old in your house, get their thoughts on how they would make their community healthier, and tweet their ideas and photos too. If you are an 11 year old, remember that your ideas on regional planning matter, now and in the future. And in the meantime, enjoy the freedom of zipping your pants into shorts anytime the weather warms up….live the dream.
Nate Taylor is a student of Public Health at Memorial University unable to resist the gravitational attraction to Newfoundland.
Bruce Knox is a Health Promotion and Communications Coordinator with Heart & Stroke by day, an experimental home cook and outdoor recreationist by night.
The Happy City Healthy Cities working group is: Nate Taylor, Josh Smee, Bruce Knox, Dr. Catherine Mah, Dr. Dan Fuller, and Dr. Victor Maddelana with contributions from Pablo Navarro, Dr. Martha Traverso-Ypez and Lisa Woodrow
1.Barry, G. Municipalities look to renew northeast Avalon regional plan. CBC News (2017). at <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/northeast-avalon-regional-plan-launched-1.3951931>