Who can build healthy communities?

Credit: United Way of the Lower Mainland

Building healthy communities requires multiple sectors to work together, and no single partner can do it alone. Some of the sectors that play a key role in building healthy communities include:

Local Governments

From the earliest days of community building in British Columbia, cities and towns have been concerned with community health. Historically, the focus of local government public health efforts was on the prevention of infectious diseases like smallpox, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, and tuberculosis. From these public health efforts grew many of the basic local government services that we know today such as public works, community planning, housing, building inspection, fire protection, police, and parks.i

Today, planning in communities across BC addresses a broad range of policies and services which focus on the social, economic, environmental and physical aspects of communities. Local governments routinely make decisions and allocate resources for transportation, community design, housing, parks and recreation, and community services. Many local governments also adopt policies related to food security, social planning and tobacco use in public areas. These decisions and policies all contribute profoundly to the health and well-being of citizens.

Many would be surprised to learn that the greatest contribution to the health of the nation over the past 150 years was made, not by doctors or hospitals, but by local governments. Our lack of appreciation of the role of our cities in establishing the health of the nation is largely due to the fact that so little has been written about it.”

Dr. Jessie Parfitt, in “Healthy cities and communities: Past present and future.” National Civic Review, Spring ‘97. Vol.86 Issue 1 p.11

For more on the role of local governments, see the PlanH guide.

Regional Health Authorities

Regional health authorities in BC govern, plan, and deliver health services within their large regional jurisdictions. They are responsible for identifying health needs, allocating resources and delivering health services in their area.

Health professionals working for your regional health authority understand the health challenges in your region. They have access to local health data, funding, expertise and resources which can help local governments to better understand and address the heath challenges in the community.

Public health staff can work with local governments to help create health-promoting and health-protecting policies, plans and programs that contribute to healthy built and social environments. They can also provide valuable information about health data for your community and region.

Local Schools and School Districts

Local schools and school districts frequently partner with local governments to develop joint use agreements to maximize the use of community facilities and playfields. A number of initiatives are happening across BC to promote healthy schools, such as:

Community Organizations and Non-Profit Partners

Not for profit organizations and community groups are critical partners in healthy community initiatives. Community organization representatives offer valuable expertise, knowledge, and relationships with diverse groups in the community. Community partners can play a number of key roles:

  • Provide expertise to a local government healthy communities advisory committee;
  • Give feedback on local policy and planning processes related to healthy communities;
  • Partner with municipalities in the development and delivery of community projects;
  • Outreach to and engage citizens, including diverse populations (e.g. new immigrants, aboriginal populations, youth, seniors, etc.) in healthy community plans, decisions and programs.
  • Deliver programs, services in the community—for example, community gardens, recreation programs, or neighbourhood association projects.

Learn more about increasing public involvement including civic engagement and community capacity building here.

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