A Profile of Promising Practices from Canada and Abroad – The planners’ perspective

Health officials have commented that they would like guidance about how to become involved with planning processes. Planners were asked for their perspective on how others can best work with them (e.g., health promotion and recreation professionals, educators and public health professionals such as community nurses, medical health officers, environmental health and licensing officers). Interviews with a small sample of planners yielded these insights:

  • The relationship between health and planning is emerging but evolving
    • It is important to understand the different training and orientation: health professionals are trained for intervention; planners for contextualization.
    • Also, these two professions operate within different ministries, with separate legislation and unfortunately, “silos.”
    • Relationships between planners and health professionals vary greatly across the provinces and territories.
    • One planner suggested that health effects of the built environment will soon be as important as climate change among planners’ priorities.
    • Planners and health professionals create a powerful alliance for improvement
    • Because health implications resonate with people on a personal level, including health outcomes in the planning process can be very influential.
    • Health professionals can educate the public and elected officials about the determinants of health. They can also state the urgency of tackling the alarming rise in chronic disease with authority and credibility.
    • Health professionals’ contribution can be simple. For instance, a letter from a Medical Officer of Health carries a lot of weight.
    Concrete suggestions of next steps for building this relationship
    • Professional Planning Institutes can make members aware of new science and emerging research around health and the built environment. For instance, the Ontario Professional Planners Institute issues “Calls to Action” to municipalities, and has created a joint Healthy Communities Award with the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario.
    • The recently launched Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Neighbourhood Development Rating System (LEED-ND) can help develop this relationship because it provides baseline metrics for healthy built environments.
    • Planners should use health professionals as a resource for Official Community Plan Reviews and other planning processes.
    • Both groups of professionals can develop opportunities and venues for “cross-fertilization”, and joint professional development.
    • It would be helpful to create a “Health 101” resource manual for planners, as has been created for health professionals with a “Planning 101” workshop.
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