Conclusion: A Profile of Promising Practices from Canada and Abroad

There is growing understanding of the public health challenges posed by many aspects of our built environment. To meet these complex challenges, we need a broader, more collaborative approach that recognizes the interdisciplinary nature of the problem. The fifteen case studies presented here show that many innovative strategies and initiatives are already taking place across Canada and abroad, in all sectors – private, voluntary and non-profit, provincial/territorial and municipal, federal and beyond.

The key informants interviewed for this report offered helpful “lessons learned” from their front-line experience. Their insights can be used to shape and influence needs analysis, strategy, planning and implementation. The main themes are cultivating effective partnerships; building commitment about the importance of the work, and maintaining a focus on end results throughout the implementation.

In addition to the lessons learned, participants recommended “Next Steps” for their own work that could also be applied more generally:

  1. Concerned groups and individuals need to “make noise” to keep bringing active living, and health and wellness considerations back onto the agenda. More sophisticated communication tools would be helpful, such as sample business cases or learning resources aimed at different audiences.
  2. Another helpful step may be to engage a wider audience through the development of a “Health 101” educational module for planners and local government officials. There also need to be more opportunities for joint professional development events involving planners and health professionals, where tools such as these could be shared.
  3. In order to gain buy-in from the start, it is imperative for organizations to have senior management make the issue a priority. One of the supports still required is policy change at the provincial and federal levels to ensure that planners are part of discussions within the Ministry of Health and vice versa. At a regional level, collaboration between health units would help raise awareness of the opportunity and skills needed to influence planning decisions.
  4. Any community, regardless of its size, should consider developing a Master Plan. This crucial document will be a working resource for the municipality, creating a common reference for various stakeholder groups.

This report should be a useful guide for practitioners who are interested in developing collaborative efforts in their own community between health and planning professionals. From whatever professional perspective we approach the problem, the ultimate objective is healthy living opportunities for all Canadians. A concerted effort to introduce public health perspectives into planning and policy related to the built environment will help create more vibrant, liveable communities where all users and residents benefit.

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